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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful, funny, quirky story with Fellini-esque surrealism
It's not often you come across a book that is enjoyable on so many levels. I was immediately drawn into the story of Alison and her world. I tried to read it slowly in order to simply enjoy the wonderful, quirky writing. But-a word of warning: if you are expecting a romantic detective story in the chic-lit genre, this book is not for you. If you do, however, appreciate...
Published on 8 Sep 2011 by Suzy

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bizarre but amusing
I’ve got a few chapters to go but from what I’ve read (however confusing it has been at times) has been well written, engaging and pretty funny. Chapters jumps from one obscure character to the other so you have to be prepared to be introduced to someone new all of a sudden and be launched in to every detail of their private lives and persona however...
Published 11 months ago by rachy12


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Delightfully quirky, 12 Feb 2013
This review is from: Alison Wonderland (Paperback)
This is not the kind of book I would usually pick up. I have given a bit of mystery and fantasy a go before and the haven't really grabbed me in the way contemporary romance novels do, however, having heard a really funny extract from this novel, I really wanted to read it and so the lovely Helen Smith sent me this copy with a gorgeous rich red front cover (not that I'm judging the book by its cover alone).

I found it a little hard to get into over the first few pages, characters were being introduced and situations explained and I found myself having to concentrate quite hard to keep up. Once I got into the storyline, i read a massive chunk of the novel all in one go, wanting to find out how it panned out. If you are a fan of indie films I think you will enjoy this book as I felt like I was watching an original independent film with a touch of magic, a bit of confusion and just enough mystery for my liking all mixed in.

The main character Alison has some unusual friends and what comes across as a mysteriously sneaky boss. I found the relationship between Alison and her best friend to be really original, I really felt like I was getting to know the truth about what Alison thinks of Taron which is utterly refreshing and not what is usually found in the novels that I read. Taron's search for an abandoned baby is an unusual storyline but I think really brings the other background story lines together. I also found Alison's relationship with her neighbour Jeff to be very realistic, his unrequited love for her is almost painful to read, but represents well the pain one feels when one is in that situation!

There are some real laugh out loud moments in the book, particularly the description of Tooting Lido with its venn diagram (I am a massive fan of mathematical diagrams in fiction) but there were also some bits in the book that left me utterly confused and feeling a little bit like I wasn't clever enough to understand what was going on... Overall I enjoyed reading the book and am glad I tried something different from what I normally read. If you are into mystery or fantasy novels, or if you love an indie film, like I do, then you will enjoy this novel. If not, like me, you might like to try something a bit different to break the usual reading habits!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 'Not everything is what it seems.', 31 July 2012
By 
L. H. Healy "Books are life, beauty and truth." (Cambridgeshire, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Alison Wonderland (Paperback)
Alison Temple employed a detective agency hoping that they would prove her wrong in her suspicion that her husband was being unfaithful, but her suspicions were correct. She leaves him, and begins working at the very same female detective agency that she used: Fitzgerald's Bureau of Investigation in London. Now Alison is the one following errant husbands around on behalf of other women also looking to have their worst fears confirmed.

In amongst all the deceit she witnesses, her friend Taron provides a welcome escape. Though the bulk of what she says is in fact, fiction, Alison realises that Taron's behaviour and eccentricities aren't perhaps as ridiculous as it might first seem: 'I feel miserable as I leave the office tonight, and suddenly Taron represents a kind of logic and stability in this crazy world. At any rate, even though her head is filled with nonsense, I think the only person she has ever deceived is herself.'

There are several interesting supporting characters; I enjoyed reading about Mrs Fitzgerald, and I also liked the psychic postman, who 'often comments on letters he's delivering. 'Good news,' he'll say, popping something through someone else's letterbox.' Alongside the other exploits that Alison gets involved in, the plot also brings up varied subjects from abandoned babies to scientists creating new animal forms.

It's an interesting, inventive novel, amusing and weird, yet also, for me at least, it was quite confusing at times. It may not be for everyone, and at times I felt less drawn in to the story, when I wanted to feel more involved in it, and perhaps grasp more of the ideas that the writer puts forward. It doesn't have a straightforward or easy-to-follow plotline, which may or may not make you want to read this book.

However, it is certainly something rather different to most novels I tend to read, and the author has written a creative and thought-provoking work, with a nice juxtaposition of Alison's personal and professional lives, and some insightful observations of human nature.

I think the title is very clever, and the cover is striking, cleverly designed and very appealing and quirky, which suits the book.

3.5 stars.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Helen Smith Proves a `Mad Hatter' is Unnecessary For A Must-Read!, 11 Jun 2012
This review is from: Alison Wonderland (Paperback)
I recently received a true `gift' in the mail from an author living in England. I was not only in love with the title right off the bat, but the cover, the synopsis and the first paragraph had me at `Hello.'

Alison Temple is what you would call a `stand-offish' gal. The very first thing readers find out about her is the fact that when people asked her if she was married, she would reply: "I'm waiting for Mr. Wonderland and when I find him I'll get married. Until then I'm staying single." (Truer words have never been spoken - right, ladies?)

Anyway, Alison did get married, but it was one of those 50% that end in...yup...cheating. At least, Alison believed that her husband was a cheating `perv' and she wanted out of a bad situation. So, what did she do? She hired an all-female (You Go Girls!) private detective agency to spy on him, and when they discovered Alison was completely correct in her assumption, she packed up and hit the road. The husband, by the way, disappeared completely. However, before she left, Alison put her wedding dress on the bed, sprayed red paint on it, and attached a note that read: "You broke my heart." Talk about making a lasting statement.

Alison went on to gain employment with the very detective agency that'd found her husband cheating. Becoming an investigator, Alison is sent out on cases and also works part-time in the office. Here best friend, Taron, is what you would call a little bit `nuts' and insists that her mother is a witch. (She's not the only one).

Alison also knows Jeff, a very `poetic' neighbor who is more than a little in love with Alison. Add to her world a psychic postman, and the various stories in this strange life jump right off the pages.

This is not a `lazy' afternoon read. You have to pay attention because the plot is fast! But when the reader realizes that the plot and characters move quickly, this book will keep them on the edge of their La-Z-Boy's waiting to see what they'll do next.

Alison and her various pals tend to treat all their adventures with a calm serenity; they know Buddhist Drummers and spend time checking up on homeless babies. Perhaps some will find the narrative a bit crude at times but, to me, it was absolutely hysterical.

Until Next Time, Everybody,
Amy
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Slyly Subversive And Pleasingly Satisfying, 27 May 2012
By 
This review is from: Alison Wonderland (Paperback)
"Alison Wonderland" is a slyly subversive book. Therefore depending on a reader's preconceptions, they will either delight in it like me or I suspect, the other pole of response is to be somewhat baffled by it.

Alison Temple is also known as Alison Wonderland. She attempts to reinvent herself after discovering her spouse is unfaithful to her. But you can only change certain superficial things about your personality, not your deepest inner core. Alison operates on two levels, the confident, professional private investigator (cases of marital infidelity and politically sensitive industrial espionage); and the inner city single girl to whom things happen rather than her driving events forward in a search for love and fulfilment.

Part of the novel is a love letter to London. A dualistic wonderland in and below the level of vision and comprehension. Dark forces are at work, forces that invade her personal life and lead her to go on the run in a very sedate road trip to Weymouth, fuelled by sweets and chocolates from Woolworths and roadside garages. A road trip undertaken with her best friend Taron, a sexy Clubber and girl about London town, but behind which is a romantic, off-kilter spiritual woman who is also a pathological liar and fantasist. If Alison herself is a character the author has reined in, Taron is a freewheeling, wildly comic invention. The two spark off one another perfectly, Taron in her madcap schemes such as seeking to find an abandoned newborn to offer as a gift to her witch mother to help her failing powers, Alison all practicalities of how to care for it with nappies and milk and consequent musings on her own love life and future progeny. These two single girls pursuing a night out in a Weymouth club is perhaps the highlight set-piece scene in the book. An absolute hoot and a rave as they desperately seek the means of pleasure within a very desultory pleasure palace indeed.

The narrative of the book means that it avoids having set-piece scenes on the whole. Some chapters veer vertiginously so that there is seemingly no link to what has just preceded, though this settles down from about halfway through the novel. Again this is the subversive hue of the book. No clear genres. No fully defined plot arc. Characters who are more real and yet somehow ethereal as they float through the novel synchronously to events. These are people just trying to live their lives and just as Alison in her work has to spy and throw the light on the people she has under scrutiny, so the author has a similar spotlight cast on Alison and her friends. Sometimes they are in the full illumination of the spotlight, sometimes their activities are barely caught in its margins. Personally I found this very satisfying. The human scale was perfectly rendered, rather than fictional devices and conceits having to be employed to resolve things or hurry the action along.

Ultimately this is a book about whether the characters inhabit their lives as an active, conscious decision, or live adrift within it, as events and other people pass through, unable to affect anything much in the way of interaction or relationship with them. Which side of the looking glass do you want to live on? "I can't do anything spontaneous, like going to the pictures or meeting up for a drink with friends and it makes me feel frustrated and powerless. I might just as well be standing at the window watching for my husband again". There is little trite redemption within these pages. Instead the reader is left painting scenarios of minor triumphs and gnawing regrets that the characters continue to experience beyond the life of the book. And that I think is no mean triumph of the novel itself. And a little subversive too in its own way.

Marc Nash
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I am quite missing Alison..., 1 May 2012
This review is from: Alison Wonderland (Kindle Edition)
I was contacted by the author, asking whether I would review this book. It sounded quirky, and I'm a sucker for London-set stories, so I was happy to oblige.

When twenty-something Alison suspects her husband of playing away from home, she hires a PI to confirm her suspicions. When her marriage disolves, she impulsively decides to take a job with the same PI firm and embrace single life.

Some time later, she takes a road trip with her best friend Taron who has had her checking which areas she would most likely find an abandoned baby to give as a gift to her mother who she believes is a witch. An unfortunate series of coincidences mean that Alison and Taron become embroiled in a darker plot which comes to its climax in secret tunnels below London.

This was a gorgeous, whimsical storythat was quite magical in its own way. All of the characters were slightly quirky - including Jeff, Alison's poem-writing neighbour who was in love with her and her psychic postman.

Some of the observations on human nature are absolutely spot on, but don't seem at all convoluted at all. For example, "People who work in offices are crazy, and they create an environment they hate, write rules they want to break, cast each other in roles they despise." I have worked in those offices (although luckily not in my current job!)

There's a lovely section about having to wear buy and wear tights - something I'm sure most office-working ladies have complained about at various points in their lives. Not so amusing for men, but this book definitely isn't aimed at them.

This is a lovely quirky little tale, with good humour, great observation, surreal twists and a little darkness. I really, really enjoyed it, and felt I'd lost a friend when I got to the end and had to part ways with Alison and her motley crew.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a fantastical adventure, 26 April 2012
By 
This review is from: Alison Wonderland (Paperback)
Alison Wonderland reminds you that you don't have to fall down a rabbit hole to encounter the strange and fantastical. It leaps off the page at you. Be warned, however, you can't sit back and lazily read it. You'd get lost for sure, because it does jump around. The reader leaps from the head of one character to the next with little warning of the impending change, but once you've learned that this could happen at any moment it becomes one more quirk of the book. Just as you can never guess what the characters might say next, you can't get too comfortable that you even know who might be saying it. It keeps you on your toes.

It may not be to everyone's taste. Alison and her cohort tend to treat everything from love poems, to mysterious Buddhist drummers, to oral sex with the same nonplus equanimity. Personally I thought this enhanced the novel in the same way that seeing someone tell a bad joke with a stoic, straight face is somehow funnier than when they're grinning. Others, however, may think it falls flat. This I'm afraid is probably just a matter of preference. You like it or you don't. I do.

Reading Alison Wonderland, I'm perhaps in a relatively unique position. I'm an American living in England. This is of note because there are some definite cultural references in the book that those outside of the UK would not get. Helen waxes lyrical about Lichorice Allsorts, Jammy Dodgers, and Wagon Wheels, for example. While not wholly unheard of in the States (I can't speak to the rest of the world) they aren't common enough to evoke familiarity as intended in the novel and I can see that this might leave people scratching their heads and wondering `what was all that about?'

Overall, I enjoyed Alison Wonderland. I liked the quirky characters' ability to accept their comrades' foibles unquestioningly. I liked the seemingly random nature of the events and the obscured ending. I never could decide if it was happy or not. I did feel a little bit like I knew every detail of a week (or so) of Alison's life and very little about Alison, but knowing too much just might have ruined the magic.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clever genre-crossing novel, 14 April 2012
By 
A Cheshire Lad (Rural Cheshire, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Alison Wonderland (Kindle Edition)
Alison Wonderland by Helen Smith

A contemporary English novel yet flavoured almost as American as a first-person present-tense radio drama such as Sara Paretsky's "V.I Warshawski" manages to stay true to its roots through its distinct chapters with the many quintessential London references from start to end.

Alison Wonderland is deeper though.
Throughout the story, running alongside the narrator Alison, fine attention to detail is paid to the cast of bizarre characters' (and cleverly) their movements between the real and the surreal.

This is an intellectual novel intended for adults amongst us rather than youngsters, without it being an 'Adult' novel, a female novel without being 'chick-lit'.

Any negative reviews of Alison Wonderland might stem simply from the unusual fact that Helen Smith's novel crosses distinct literary genres.

Polished with defining chapters which move with strong modern dialogue.
Recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Feminism for Men, 16 Jan 2012
This review is from: Alison Wonderland (Kindle Edition)
I approached this book with a little trepidation. A woman's name for a title said Chick Lit! Men Enter at Own Risk. Indeed, the book opens with Alison being abandoned by her partner, but this is the springboard for Alison's new life of adventure into which the reader is led with effortless wit and charm. The partner is never heard of again. His loss, for sure.

Smith paints London life like a fascinated lover, she sees things we've been looking at for years but hadn't perceived. There is a level of surrealism - a mysterious community of monks in Labyrinths below Battersea Park? - which makes you think: No! Really? Well maybe.., but never spills over into crass fantasy. There are scenes which render London like a Picasso portrait of a friend you've known for years. You'd never have thought she'd look so beautiful with two noses. There is a slanted humour throughout the book. Smith writes with a wry smile on her face even on the darkest subjects, and if you get it (and some won't) there are head-shaking, laugh-out-loud moments throughout.

Underpinning it all is a damn good yarn full of characters who dance lightly across the page and into your affections. The novel is beautifully paced, the style a joy. Alison Wonderland is stylish, thought-provoking and intelligent. I was left wanting more from this exciting new author.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Absurd and entertaining!, 20 Nov 2011
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This review is from: Alison Wonderland (Kindle Edition)
The first thing I thought when I finished this novel was, well that was weird. Not in a bad way, though, just weird. Despite the pun, this novel has nothing to do with Lewis Carroll's similarly titled work but the weird, fantastical nature of some of the content was definitely comparable. Smith's novel deals with all things from spiritual connectivity to abducting babies, it was at times hard to see where this novel was going. Despite this, by the end everything was tied in a way that made sense, in the context of the novel and Smith's tone and style is extremely interesting and original.

Alison Wonderland is well written combining both supernatural intrigue with fantastical detective agencies and the parallels between Alison's professional and personal lives are cleverly drawn together. I really enjoyed it and for a quick read, I would recommend it to anyone looking for an amusing, entertaining tale which goes in all manner of directions, introducing all sorts of intriguing characters and keeping the reader thoroughly hooked.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Alison Wonderland. A very funny book, 16 Nov 2011
By 
Mr. J. W. Wiltshire (Westgate-on-Sea) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Alison Wonderland (Kindle Edition)
Alison Wonderland by Helen Smith is a very entertaining book. The story seems to float along and doesn't really lead any where but please do not let that put you off reading this book. It is very funny and certainly light hearted reading. I totally enjoyed it.
It is about a young woman, Alison Temple, who is recently divorced. She works for a detective agency but it is not a detective story. It is about the people she meets on the way through the story and her friends, who are a strange mix but very likeable at the same time. I did like her friend Taron. There is a 'shig', which is supposed to be a mix of sheep and pig, involved. You must read the book to find out more about that!! There are foot tunnels criss crossing under the Thames, do these really exist?
This book has a definite dreamy feel to it because while it has a story, it is hard to say what it actually is. The title is obviously a play on words with Lewis Carroll's 'Alice In Wonderland'. I was asked to review this book and I am so pleased that I was. Whether I would have read it, I can't say, but I am very pleased that I have. I am now looking at other books by this author. This book is so well written. I did enjoy it greatly and I recommend it to any one. You will not be disappointed.
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Alison Wonderland
Alison Wonderland by Helen Smith
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