The Classics Reclamation Project is my personal challenge to read and enjoy the classics. Each Wednesday, I post about the classic I’m reading at the moment.

The Classics Reclamation Project

When I wrote about Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland a few weeks ago, I mentioned that the whole story felt familiar and that I was looking forward to trying Through the Looking-Glass, hoping I might like an unfamiliar story better. On the whole, I knew less of Through the Looking-Glass than I’d known of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, though elements from both made it into the Disney version

Instead of going down the rabbit hole, this time Alice manages to go through a mirror in her house. Things in this looking-glass world are as odd as they were in wonderland; whether or not they’re the same place wasn’t clear to me. The people and creatures were similarly odd, the plot just as disjointed, and the poetry equally abundant and nonsensical, though no characters in the looking-glass world overlapped with the ones in wonderland.

I continued to like Alice. She’s endearing, really. She tries so hard to be practical and sensible, but at the same time she talks to her cats and makes up stories. She goes along with what happens to her in the looking-glass world until something pushes her too far, and then she snaps a bit. She always recovers quickly and is back to being a good sport until something else outrageous happens.

Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll (cover)I also enjoyed the scene with Humpty Dumpty, who came off as being quite the talker. Characters out of poems Alice knew kept showing up during Alice’s travels, doing just the things the poems said they did: Tweedledee and Tweedledum fighting over a rattle, the lion and the unicorn battling for the crown, and so forth. I thought it was creative of Lewis to have elements from Alice’s ordinary life popping up in her looking-glass adventures. He might have done the same in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, though I didn’t notice it as much in that story.

The writing, of course, is good. Carroll’s poetry is clever, with impeccable rhyme and meter. I listened to Michael Page read Alice’s adventures, and he did an excellent job. His character voices rivaled Jim Dale’s, who read the version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland I chose. So, the reading, the writing, and the main character were all enjoyable for me; it’s just the story that didn’t much interest me.

I guess I’m just not a whimsy person. I can see where Carroll’s Alice stories delight and intrigue, but they’re too random for me. At one point, while I was listening, the story jumped so drastically that I thought I’d missed a track. I can understand why many people consider these stories classics, and I’m glad I read them, but they weren’t my favorites.

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  1. I admit, when my book club read the first Alice story last year, I had planned to read both it and this one, but after reading the first Alice, I hated it so much that I couldn’t bear to read this one. I didn’t like the writing or the randomness. It just seemed so…ridiculous, maybe? I didn’t like the movie versions as a kid either…

    1. Ridiculous is a great word for it. I can see why some people love it, but I don’t think it’s quite my style. Luckily, it was short, and the narrator was good. Plus, it didn’t matter if I drifted in and out of paying attention, since there wasn’t much continuity to the plot anyway 😉

    1. Now that I’ve read (listened to) the two Alice books, I’d like to see the Burton film, which I’ve not yet seen. It sounds like I’d actually prefer it to the original novels!

  2. I’ve only read Alice in Wonderland and the thing that impressed me most about it was was Carroll’s wordplay and wit. And as you know, randomness and the absurd definitely don’t bother me when it comes to books, so I guess this is really my kind of book. I really do wish, though, that I’d discovered them as a child!

    1. He is very witty and good with words, that’s for sure! Sounds like you would enjoy Through the Looking-Glass, especially if you enjoyed Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

  3. As a child there was something I found off-putting about this book that stopped me reading it, and I’ve never remembered what it was, but you mentioning randomness, that sounds likely. I think I’d like it more now. I can see not knowing if the place is the same being quite frustrating!

    1. It’s weird! I always felt that way about the old Disney movie, too. Nothing makes sense, and everything seems random. That’s interesting that you had an aversion to the book even as a kid! I think if you know it’s going to be random and can accept that, the book is certainly interesting. Plus, it’s such a cultural cornerstone that I’m glad I’ve read it.

  4. I have never read this book, but have always been rather curious about it. I don’t think my kids have ever read it either. In any case, I think it would be interesting to pick this up and give it a try, because I am just finding out that I love absurdist literature, and though this would probably be classified as more of a classic, there are some really absurd things about it that I think I would appreciate! Thanks for the thoughtful review!

    1. If you like absurdist and classic, I think you’d enjoy this one! It’s whimsical and silly and random, and the wordplay is quite fun.

    1. Ah yes, he was fun! I do enjoy wordplay, usually, but the randomness of this one got to be a little much for me.

    1. I can absolutely see how, if you love randomness, you’d enjoy the Alice stories! It was a bit maddening for me. I need a touch more overarching plot!

  5. I’ve got a book about Alice and philosophy that I’m hoping to get to when I finally get around to this one. I’ve started it and it contends that Alice is something of a feminist hero. I never got the from “Wonderland” at all until I started reading this book but it does make sense.

    1. I bet that’s interesting! I’m kind of curious about Carroll after reading the Alice stories, and I think I’d enjoy analyses of them as well. Even if the books themselves aren’t really my thing, I do think the literature surrounding them could be quite fascinating.

  6. I’m coming from commenting on your LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE post. I reread both Alice books in 2007 before my son was born and I recall really enjoying both of them. I think they are called “nonsense” books and it really seems like maybe you have the same issues with them that you do with magical realism: it’s just too off the wall random. I think I need to reread Carroll with magical realism in mind….hmmm. how interesting…

    1. I think that’s very true, Rebecca. I’m not really a total randomness person. I don’t mind strange elements or odd creatures or the like, but I need them to have some sort of explanation or clear place within a coherent world. If you do a Carroll reread with a magical realism slant, I will be fascinated to read your discoveries!

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