Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll (1871)

Book review: Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll (1871)

When Alice steps through the looking-glass, the enters a world of chess pieces and nursery rhyme characters who behave very strangely. Humpty Dumpty, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, the dotty White Knight and the sharp-tempered Red Queen – none of them are what they seem. In fact, through the looking-glass, everything is distorted.

The themes and settings of Through the Looking-Glass make it a kind of mirror image of Wonderland: the first book begins outdoors, in the warm month of May (May 4), uses frequent changes in size as a plot device, and draws on the imagery of playing cards; the second opens indoors on a snowy, wintry night exactly six months later, on November 4 (the day before Guy Fawkes Night), uses frequent changes in time and spatial directions as a plot device, and draws on the imagery of chess. In it, there are many mirror themes, including opposites, time running backwards, and so on.

Sequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Through the Looking-Glass begins with Alice playing with a kitten indoors. She then decides to climb on top of a mantlepiece and into a looking-glass (mirror, to us modern folk) and finds herself back in the wondrous world of Wonderland.

Things are as bizarre as before, with giant chessboards and she ends up being part of a big game of chess and goodness knows what else. All in good fun, though.

Carroll knew how to amuse children and even though I’ve just turned 30, I’m amused too. The weirdness of it all, from Humpty Dumpty to the White Knight, who keeps falling off his horse, practically sparkles with glee. The joy of a good story well told. Carroll was a great storyteller, and while his books about Alice make little or no sense at all, they’re still delightful.

So you’ll have people saying they’re a load of nonsense, and this is true – the stories about Alice are entirely nonsensical, but they’re still enjoyable to read. Sometimes you read, or rather see, a story that makes no sense, and you don’t even get the satisfaction of enjoying the ride while it lasts.

For Alice, it’s fun to travel along with her, precocious brat though she is, so that it makes no sense whatsoever doesn’t bother me as much. Also, I think I enjoyed this story more than Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Maybe because now, I’m used to it and know what to expect.

4 out of 5 dreams, and well worth a read.

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