Top critical review
3 people found this helpful
Fun & informative, let down by poor formatting
on 8 October 2011
This helpful & fun little book does two things: it provides a miniature biography of Carroll (there's especially good and interesting coverage of his childhood and the years leading up to his decision to teach at Oxford), and it presents a number of mathematical puzzles posed by Carroll in his numerous pamphlets, letters, and books. These two aspects are more or less interwoven together, but it's easy enough to skip any puzzles that don't capture your interest.
I enjoyed the biographical notes more than the puzzles, and as much for what they reveal about Victorian England (the social structure, educational system) as Carroll himself. The book doesn't appear to be comprehensive or particularly deeply researched (Carroll wrote an enormous number of letters, pamphlets, and books, and I certainly didn't get the impression that Wilson has read all of it; neither is there much linkage between Carroll's activities and what his colleagues and rivals were doing at the same time), but it's not really any worse for this--think of it as a selection of Carroll's most interesting puzzles, and the most interesting or best documented aspects of his life.
I read this book in a Kindle edition, and unfortunately the formatting of this edition is particularly bad. You can usually make out what's meant, but it's difficult to separate quotations from the surrounding text, poetry gets mangled, and illustrations appear in strange places. Most inexplicably "strong" appears in place of numerals in many locations throughout the text. For example you see nonsense like "This gives a total of 5 x strong = 30 different ways of painting the faces."