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on 26 October 2011
A brave subject to approach in such hysterical times but the author hits the mark. A really fascinating read which draws on contemporary evidence to view the subject from the spirit of the Victorian age. In no way viewed through rose tinted spectacles Dodgson is dissected in a quite objective way which throws a lot of light onto his life and work. The arguments are compelling and consistent and logical with all we know about the man.
For all those who wish to be informed and enlightened on the mind of this fascinating man it is a must have read.
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on 18 May 2000
If you thought Lewis Carroll was a shy, weedy confirmed bachelor who could only talk to little girls, think again after reading this book. I don't quite agree with Leach's vision of Carroll as virtually a sex god, but what she writes makes a lot of sense and she certainly demolishes the idea of him being fixated on little girls. In fact, it seems almost certain from the evidence that his family were panic stricken at his relationships with many grown up women, with whom he blatantly defied convention.
The Charles L. Dodgson who appears in this book is a hard to pin down, utterly fascinating, complex and emotional man whose family have tried to push the view of him as a little-girl fixated oddity for years - and are apparently still doing so. Apparently they were hostile to this book, and it makes you wonder why, 100 years after his death, they still push the idea of their famous relative as a virginal quasi paedophile when the evidence suggests that this is very unlikely indeed.
The book's only weak point is the idea that he had an affair with Mrs. Liddell. An affair yes, but not with her. I can't see it in a tiny, closed community like Christ Church was - and probably still is. Mrs. Liddell sounds too aware of her social position to bother with someone as low status as Carroll. The Liddells were very important people, and when Alice & Co were young Carroll seemed like a terrible match for their daughters, as nobody was to know he'd become world famous, (and also, to be honest, he sounds quite over emotional and difficult to deal with too).
If you ever had the slightest interest in the author of Alice, read this book. It will probably make you even more interested in him.
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on 21 November 2004
The earlier reviewer who attacked this book got one thing right - this is a detective story and one of the best. But to describe this seminal and now highly influential book as 'fiction' smacks of a desperate defence by the 'old school' who are having to come to terms with the fact that they are simply wrong. Abuse is used in place of honest criticism - and this shows they have already lost the argument.
Contrary to the silly claims of the earlier reviewer, Leach doesn't base her argument on a 'scrap of paper' - as the writer of the previous review must know. She bases her argument on a mass of first hand evidence that clearly shows Lewis Carroll was not the shy adult-fearing man of legend. Her book appeared five years ago - and to this day no one has been able to fault her research or most of her conclusions. This is why they must resort to the kind of silly ad hominems about 'fiction' and 'fantasy'.
Don't be taken in by these devices. Read the book and make up your own minds
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on 27 August 1999
For children - and those with a taste for nonsense literature - "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and its sequel "Through the Looking-Glass" are charming fancies from the pen of a master storyteller. Lewis Carroll is an ever-indulgent friend whose wonderfully absurdist fantasies and unforgettable characters serve as lifelong delights. But to the adult, the cynic or the biographer, "Lewis Carroll" is the barely-adherent mask covering the dark fathoms of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson - the lifelong bachelor with a dislike of boys, the voyeur with a taste for photographing nude prepubescent girls, the barely-suppressed paedophile whose fictions are thinly disguised confessions of his lusts. Indeed, this view of Dodgson is so commonplace that it comes as a shock to be shown and told there is no truth to any of it.The cetral thesis of "In the Shadow of the Dreamchild" is easily stated - rather than being the shy, weedy eccentric whose books were a sublimated love letter to the child Alice Liddell, Karoline Leach tells us Dodgson was, in fact, a vital man of wit, intellect and charm who, if he had a sexual relationship with any of the Liddell women, bedded not prepubescent Alice, but almost certainly her mother Lorina.Not a striking revelation, one might think, until such a thesis is presented in direct opposition to the legendary "Lewis Carroll." Miss Leach has put herself in the unenviable position not only of challenging the legend of Carroll, but questioning the entire drift of Dodgson study. If she is correct - and her book marshals many supportive arguments - all previous interpretations of "Alice," "Looking-Glass," "Sylvie and Bruno" and "The Hunting of the Snark" as seen through the prism of Dodgson's presumed paedophilia must not only be reconsidered, but in many cases discarded altogether.It would be a disservice to Miss Leach's book to present a full summary of her arguments in support of her "new understanding." She has, however, made discoveries in private Dodgson family papers which assist her speculation for an affair between him and Lorina Liddell, and believes such an interpretation - as well as offering new explanations for his literary allusions - solves one of the central mysteries in Dodgson's life: why he was allowed to live out his life at Christ Church without ever taking holy orders, in direct violation of both college rules and his own avowed intention.The Charles Dodgson who emerges from these pages is by turns charming and cold, inspired and insufferable, entertaining and evasive. He is, in short, a fully-rounded individual free of the pallid "dreamer" image he, his family and subsequent biographers strove so hard to sustain. Lewis Carroll does not live in this book - but Charles Dodgson does.
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on 20 December 2001
The book completely takes apart the traditional view of Carroll, and it does it with good evidence. I think there's no longer any justification for saying Cohen's biography is 'definitive' - it's not.
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on 5 October 2011
Karoline Leach has clearly done her research where others have not, and her writing style makes this a riveting read. Over the years Lewis Carroll has gained a reputation as a devious paedophile, but the author's in-depth analysis of the facts prove that there is very little evidence to back this up. In fact, it is very clear that his sexual interest was focussed on adult women, and this was a source of great turmoil for him. I agree that his photographs are very disturbing and it is little wonder that people today condemn him on this evidence alone. However, the author puts them in context of the popular and creepy "Victorian Cult of the Child", and even this evidence becomes much less damning.

I think this book would make a great TV adaptation. It would show Charles Dodgson in a new light - a complex and brilliant man at ease in the company of adults, but deeply troubled by his feelings for various women in his life. Strangely enough, children would hardly feature at all.
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on 31 July 2015
Were it not for the missing diaries we probably wouldn't have as many books theorising about the life of C.D. One very readable angle in his mysterious ( and incomplete ) fascinating life story .
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on 28 December 2013
SPOILER ALERT!!! This book will revolutionize your view of Lewis Carroll

Its well-researched, well-reasoned (if somewhat verbose & long-winded!) text undermines much of our assumptions about Carroll, his personality, his attitude to little girls, teenage girls and mature women (both single & married)

Ever wondered why he never was fully ordained?

Ever wondered the REAL reason Alice Liddell's mother appeared to dislike him?

Ever wondered why he ensured Tenniel's illustrations of the book Alice bore no resemblance to Alice Liddell?

Ever wondered why so much of his diary is "MISSING"?

READ ON ...... NO WONDER THE CARROLLIANS HATED THIS BOOK WHEN IT WAS FIRST PUBLISHED!
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on 31 July 2002
This is a sort-of detective novel written in the form of a biographical sketch of Charles Dodgson. The literary-detective narrator, faced with the image of her hero shaped by numerous scholars and academics that portrays him as a conscientious man who enjoyed the company of children, especially one named Alice Liddell, discovers a scrap of paper that confirms in her mind that Dodgson's relatives had cooked the books (his diaries--they tore out a few pages) to protect the family reputation. The scrap of "evidence", the detective is convinced, shows Dodgson to be interested, not in little Alice, but her mother. The narrator goes on to imply that this imagined saintly fellow is actually a serial adulterer, having bedded Mrs. Liddell and several other adult women. He's not a pedophile after all, by George, but an adulterer, who managed to slip past the Mrs. Grundys in his own day and, what's more, after his death, evade a century of biographers and academics from ever knowing the "truth."
Thus, the real hero of this tale turns out to be the clever narrator, whose extraordinary acumen and diligent digging nails the hero for what he really was--a normal sort of guy with an itch for adult women, not little girls, one who cleverly used little Alice to get to her upper-class Mum.
If fantasy fiction is your cup of tea, this may be the book for you. If you really want to learn about Carroll's life, then you might look to Morton Cohen's definitive biography and edition of the letters.
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on 4 January 2015
fine
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