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The Alice Behind Wonderland Hardcover – 24 Mar 2011

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: OUP USA; 1st edition (24 Mar 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195396197
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195396195
  • Product Dimensions: 21.3 x 1.8 x 14.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 439,622 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Simon Winchester studied Geology at Oxford University. He is the author of 'Atlantic','A Crack in the Edge of the World', 'Krakatoa', 'The Map That Changed the World', 'The Professor and the Madman', 'The Fracture Zone', 'Outposts', 'Korea', among many other titles. He lives in Massachusetts and in the Western Isles of Scotland.

Product Description


engaging account (The Lady)

sensitive and erudite read (Sunday Express)

Mr Winchester elegantly written study provides a balanced, sympathetic portrait of a complex and gifted man. (Wall Street Journal)

In a sympathetic, but not indulgent, account, Winchester is successful in conveying, but not defending, the complexities of a curious and enigmatic man. (Catherine Pope - Victorian Geek)

About the Author

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Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Scriber_scouse VINE VOICE on 21 May 2012
Format: Hardcover
Winchester's volume weighs in at a very slim 100 pages and seems something of an oddity much like Carroll himself. Despite cover promises to unveil the turbulent mind behind the classics Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass it is too narrowly focused on Carroll's early years to be satisfying as a biography as its skims quickly between his childhood and Oxford, and never really plumbs the impact literary fame must have had on such an introverted soul. Equally the content lacks the detail and insight of Carroll's inspirations and writing processes to be worthy as a literary analysis of the texts.

As someone who was looking forward to reading about Lewis Carroll, his muse and deeper analysis of what he hoped to achieve with Alice in Wonderland I felt disappointed. Winchester for reasons best known to himself decides to dedicate much of this pamphlet (it lacks the substance and word count to be called a book proper) to Lewis' early fascination with photography and details lovingly scores of pictures that Carroll took,lingering especially on the now infamous 'Ragamuffin Queen' shot of Alice.

Although Winchester's descriptions are readable and his passion for the subject is evident the pamphlet remains ultimately mislabeled and unsatisfying: we learn very little of import about Carroll or his relationship with the muse Alice - it is more a study in early photography and portraiture that happens to focus on Carroll's photographs in particular. Frustratingly though for a book about photography there are very few photographs included!

Winchester's coy skirting of the rumours of paedophilia, becomes tiresome after a while as he repeatedly uses this almost as bait to entice the reader to carry on reading the book.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Michael Baxter VINE VOICE on 10 April 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The first thing to note about this book is that the title is misleading. You might imagine that it is primarily about the original Alice. In fact, there is far more about the history of photography, and about the Carroll collector M. L. Parrish, than about Alice.

That in itself is not a serious fault. Far more serious are the very many errors of fact. I list just a few; there are plenty more. He did not live in Tom Quad in 1856; he moved there in 1868 (p.11). His parents were first cousins, not third cousins (p.12). His back-garden railway was at Croft, not Daresbury (pp.12-13). Not all of his home-made magazines survive (p.18). Charles arrived at Oxford 30, not 40, years after his father graduated (p.19). Henrietta was seven, not four, when Carroll's mother died (p.20). He refers to "a magazine that for some inexplicable reason was called the Train" (p.27); the reasons for its name are well-known. Similarly, it is well known why Dodgson suggested the name Edgar Cuthwellis (p.29) - it is an anagram of his first two names, Charles Lutwidge. Maybe these errors are minor, but they could all have been avoided by reading the books that the author himself recommends for further reading. It does mean that it is difficult to trust any statement in the book without checking it.

The climax of the book describes Carroll taking the cover photo, of Alice as a beggar. "Is Mrs. Liddell watching? Is Lorina in the garden? And Edith? ... Would anyone care that Dodgson then reached behind the little girl's hair and adjusted the off-white garment about her shoulders, such that it fell slightly from her left and exposed only just entirely her left nipple?" (p.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Elaine Simpson-long TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 17 Jun 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I have always found Alice in Wonderland a slightly scary book, full of grotesque creatures and nightmarish situations for a little girl to deal with. I have re-read it as an adult and this time can enjoy its Monty Pythonish antics but it still has a lurking dark side. We have read much about Lewis Carroll's prediliction for young girls which nowadays can be called something else, but I have never been sure that the accusations levelled at him were totally justified. He just struck me as being a bit of an odd ball character, OK not sure I would want to have him to dinner, but I do wonder.

This little book, well it is a monograph really, on THAT picture of Alice Liddell is only 100 pages long and easily read in an hour or two. I found it intriguing and it certainly does not enter into the argument for and against Caroll in this regard, but rather focuses on the circumstances of the famous photograph.

Cannot say I was overwhelmed by the style of writing or the content, but as a footnote to a wider biography of Lewis Carrol it is worth a look. I found the ending rather touching and sad when the original Alice, now a lonely old woman who has suffered grief and loss, went to America to celebrate the centenary of Carroll's birth and found that police had to escort her everywhere as crowds surrounded her shouting 'Hi Alice'.

"The radio broadcast an interview in which she suggested that her visit to America and New York was so exciting that the experience took her 'back to Wonderland'. Few entirely believed it then. None do now'

She was famous as a little golden girl on a summer afternoon and it must have seemed all so long ago.
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