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Alice in Sunderland: An Entertainment [Hardcover]

Bryan Talbot
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
RRP: 18.99
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Book Description

5 April 2007

Alice in Sunderland is a graphic novel like no other. Bryan Talbot takes the city of Sunderland and the story of Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell (the 'real' Alice) as the spine of his story and around them spins a spectacularly diverse range of different stories. He explores Carroll's links with Sunderland and shows how the city inspired his masterpieces. He delves into the city's history, from the Venerable Bede to George Formby, from its heyday as the greatest shipbuilding port in the world to its present multicultural mix.

Talbot's artwork is a spectacular mixture of different styles: black and white ink line and pencil drawing, watercolour, collage and digitally manipulated photographic artwork. His stories are told from the stage of the Sunderland Empire theatre, an Edwardian music hall, and the book is a genuine variety performance. In Alice in Sunderland he shows - triumphantly - how local history is national history in microcosm, how one story begets another. The result is a landmark book in the graphic field.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape (5 April 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224080768
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224080767
  • Product Dimensions: 2.8 x 19.8 x 27.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 45,134 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


'A generous-hearted, ambitious book...a fine introduction to the graphic novel' -- Daily Telegraph

`You will find much to love here...for its ambition alone my best liked book of 2007' -- Forbidden

"magical" -- Irish Times, April 14, 2007

'A gloriously ambitious fusion of myth, history and autobiography
in every imaginable visual style...320-odd pages of non-stop entertainment' -- The Guardian

'Alice in Sunderland is a tour de force landmark in graphic
-- Independent

'The book is a dizzying head-rush of ideas and information ...'
-- Financial Times - Rev'd James Lovegrove

'one of the most exhilarating books in years...a minor
masterpiece' -- Rachel Cooke, The Observer

`Glorious, panoptic and precise; one of the oddest and cleverest comics there is.'
-- The Daily Telegraph

a multi-layered retelling of British history...aglow with jostling imagery...dazzling" -- Metro, April 13, 2007

Book Description

An amazing graphic novel - an epic meditation on myth, history and storytelling.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Entertainment... 7 Jun 2007
... is the subtitle of this book, and well-deserved it is too. This is interesting - IanW reviewed this (above), as a Sunderland-based comic fan who had never read 'Alice'. He wondered what other people would make of the book. Well, I've read 'Alice', love the comic/graphic genre but never been anywhere near Sunderland. This book is, quite simply, brilliant. It's a TARDIS of a story; expanding in breadth and depth as you get further in, layers are peeled away revealing more complexity underneath.

Local history - yes, there's lots of that, but all in all it's a complex origami of interlinked myths, legends, facts and almost-truths. And I can say that the local history is riveting, even for someone who knows nothing of the area. I don't know if this is good or not, but I'm now living in a Sunderland of the imagination, and it's Bryan Talbot's fault.

Love this. It's a revelation and a joy!
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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating local history 6 April 2007
In this fascinating book, Bryan Talbot manages to make local history interesting and enjoyable. Using a range of visual genres, from sketches to digitally enhanced photography, with fantastical comic art en route, Talbot incorporates a range of regional iconography allowing readers from wider locations than the eponymous city to engage with the material. Honouring the entertainment promised by its subtitle, he livens up what could easily be dull material with wit and (quasi-) contemporary popular culture references: Sid James is a joy, particularly his harassment of his fellow Empire Theatre ghost.

The interplay between Talbot's three alter-egos is interesting. As a performer he gives a lecture to a plebeian, suspicious of the entertainment value of local history. The middle-man is the pilgrim: the enthusiastic character who travels the land uncovering information and interacting with the buildings and people. We learn about contemporary buildings and art, and their associations with the past. The pilgrim converses with Colin Wilbourn and Chaz Brenchley, responsible for the trail along the north bank of the Wear, who informs us of the project's aspirations and actualisation. Elements such as these allow the reader to engage and appreciate the contemporary landscape.

Hinting at the traditional Sunderland-Newcastle rivalry, a theme discussed in the book, the credits reveal that the Newcastle-based Arts Council England (North East) refused a grant for the Sunderland based work.

The book is of interest to anyone with even the slightest of connections to North East England (as well as to Carroll/Alice fans), and should also take prominence in every secondary school library in the region.
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39 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece of graphic storytelling 11 April 2007
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
But then, I'm biased.

I'm bringing a lot of baggage to this review as, more than any review I've ever written, it touches me where I live, literally, as that happens to be Sunderland for most of my 59 years. I'm also a librarian who works in Sunderland City Library and who was able to help Brian Talbot on two or three occasions. I'm also (among other things, none of them relevant here) a big comic fan.

(I thought of using the term `graphic novel', but why should I? Just because the world at large associates the word `comic' with kids doesn't mean I should pander to their ignorance.)

Also, I've never read the novel "Alice in Wonderland", though it's impossible to be ignorant of it.

So what I get from it isn't what a Carrollian scholar would get from it. Let's deal with the comics aspect of it first. Early on Talbot pointedly makes the structure clear (p.55 to be precise) when he talks about time -everything happens now. The narrative (if that's the correct word) slides easily between past and present as he delves into aspects of Sunderland's history and Lewis Carroll's life. He also invokes, much later (p.187), the blessed Scott McCloud who reminds him (Bryan Talbot) that comics can be about anything.

But what is "Alice in Sunderland" about?

Well, in some ways it's about comics itself (not `themselves'). Talbot is displaying the diversity of medium by adopting a variety of styles to illustrate a single story, that of the relationship between the book ("Alice") and the city (Sunderland) -straightforward comic illustration, pastiche, digitally altered photographs, collage and more; often all on the same page. In many ways, this is a triumph of style albeit not over content as both are blended seamlessly.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars subtle 6 Nov 2007
By Alice
Many layers, hidden dark depths, lots of interwoven strands. I found this book fascinating, and have already re-read it, discovering new twists and sub texts the second time. I'm looking foward to reading it again. And probably again. Buy if you are:-
a) From the North East
b) An Alice admirer
c) A graphic novel buff
d) Like the work of Bryan Ralbot

or simply want to try something different. Really different!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great stuff 24 July 2007
To be honest, I knew very little about Sunderland before I read this, but despite my apathy towards local history in general, Talbot managed to keep me entranced throughout this long, colourful, varied graphic novel, turning Northern England into a new kind of Wonderland. I love the use of different styles and ideas, such as the theatrical posters, the maps, the blurry, filtered photos that give a dream-like effect, and even the silly parts, like the hilarious moment he illustrates line-by-line a scene from Shakespeare's Henry VIII. The narration is fast-paced, fun to read, and manages to show us all the minute details and connections that a single city can have, and the way in which these events shape the culture and atmosphere of such a place.
Definitely recommended.

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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Marmite in its overall approach maybe, but I loved it
There have been reviewers unhappy with the style which uses a mixture of colour and monochrome, as well as a great variety of graphic styles. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Clem Neville
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
I'd wanted to read this for ages, and wasn't disappointed. It really keeps your attention with its mix of fact and fiction. Read more
Published 9 months ago by JJ
5.0 out of 5 stars A witty and wonderful diversion about everything and nothing to do...
Bryan Talbot manages an effortless combination of traditional line-drawing and comic book story-telling with computer-modified imagery and a rambling, stream-of-consciousness... Read more
Published 9 months ago by John Barleycorn
4.0 out of 5 stars Of epic proportions
My first graphic novel and wow, what an incredible reading experience! The main thing that stood out to me were the critiques of the so-called 'truth' of Englishness and... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Emily Morrison
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant piece of work
I have bought a few copies of this outstanding book in order to give as a gift. The last one went to live in Kentucky.
Published 13 months ago by Ed Pickford
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic, Nicely written, lovely presentation and interesting. A...
Alice in Sunderland is a book I've nearly bought on several occasions but been put off by what I feared might only be of parochial interest. Read more
Published 14 months ago by K. Trebell
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Book
Bryan Talbot is a really good artist and story teller. His books can be read again and again without getting bored of them.
Published 15 months ago by Ladygreygold
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully drawn and great story
This was only my second foray into the world of graphic novels (after Maus) and as a mackem it was the natural choice. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Mr Mark Walton
4.0 out of 5 stars good but flawed
This is a fine book in many ways, but one has to say that it is too loose and freewheeling. It would have been better if it had more focus.
Published 19 months ago by JRed
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and fantastical
I am not normally a reader of graphic novels, nothing against them, it's just that I have never got into the genre. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Amazon Customer
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