Today I'm pleased to have author Jane Richardson as my guest blogger. She has some wonderful insights into the world of Alice in Wonderland. Welcome, Jane!
Curiouser and curiouser! Is there a writer amongst us who doesn’t recognise that exclamation? Of course, it’s from Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland. That book, along with its follow-on, Alice Through The Looking Glass, was the book of my childhood, and it’s the one, after all these years of reading books, that I still think of as my favourite book ever.
Walk into any high-street bookshop and you’ll find it easily. You might discover a version with the original Victorian illustrations by John Tenniel, showing Alice as she’s become imprinted on our minds with her white pinafore and neat shoes and stockings, or perhaps a later version, still with the same much-loved text but with updated illustrations bringing us a more contemporary Alice. It’s a book that’s never out of print. So why has it endured so well?
Alice was the first storybook character I ever truly identified with. There’s something in the way she reacts to finding herself in the strangest of places that struck so many chords with me as a child. Intrigued by the world one moment, confused and on the edge of tears the next, sometimes furious with her situation or alternatively resigned and pragmatic, I recognised ME in every aspect of Alice.
You know something? I still do!
Besides, Alice got to do so many of the things I dearly longed to do. I mean, things I really wanted to do, but would never, ever have the chance, because they were so darn impossible. Did you never, as a child, watch a rabbit run across the field and into his rabbit-hole, and wonder where it led him? I did. And what’s more, what if the rabbit could speak, and tell you about it? That occurred to me, and I bet it did to you, too! In a child’s imagination, it’s no great leap from a rabbit who can talk to one that wears a waistcoat with a pocket where he keeps his watch, and when he checks it, exclaims, ‘I’m late! I’m late!’
Alice easily captured my childhood imagination. I still remember being absolutely enthralled by the stories, and I’ve seen both my children be exactly the same, with my childhood copy open on their laps. It is that rare and wonderful thing, an eternal story, a tale for every generation.
As I grow older, the fascination of the story is still with me, and if anything, I find I can identify so much more with it. I often wish things could be the way they were at the Mad Hatter’s tea party, where no-one ever bothers to wash up, but simply moves on to the next set of cups and saucers when clean ones are needed! How wonderful if I could just magic away household chores and care no more for them again.
What about the dear old White Knight, who has a plan for everything, a scheme to cover every eventuality and tricks a-plenty up his armour-clad sleeves to deal with anything life might throw at him? Yet we know that none of it will ever quite come right. I’ve seen those White Knights so many times in my life. I’ve been like him myself. Here’s another thing I’m sure you’ll recognise, those infuriating times when household objects that are supposed to make our lives easier suddenly seem to have lives of their own and start to work against us? I swear they’re somehow doing it on purpose, just like when Alice was invited to a croquet game by the Queen of Hearts, and the mallets turned out to be extremely alive and exceedingly naughty flamingos!
So many situations, so many characters. They’re not just mad ideas in a book, they’re part of life.
Alice’s story reflects so much of the confusions of childhood; the way children find their own ways of seeing the world and come up with explanations for the bizarre and the downright insane. Even many of the questions we ask as adults, and the myriad number of ways we reason with ourselves and rationalise the absurdities of life in order to find a way to cope with the madness – it’s all there in Wonderland. We all need some of Alice’s take on life, for sure.
But you know, for me, that’s all just a teeny tiny part of it. The main reason I love Alice so much is that she allows me to cling to those carefree days of childhood, those balmy summer days where all I had to do was lie on my back in the long grass and watch wispy clouds drift over an endless blue sky, and let my imagination go. Perhaps, like me, you remember those snowy winter days when you dream beside a toasty warm fire, gazing up at the mirror above the mantel-shelf and wonder about the land reflected in its glass....wonder who might be in there, what they do, and how they live....
‘.....She was up on the chimney-piece while she said this, though she hardly knew how she had got there. And certainly the glass was beginning to melt away, just like a bright silvery mist....’
Thank you, Alice, for allowing me to be ‘curiouser and curiouser’ all my life.
Jane Richardson writes contemporary women’s fiction with a strong romantic element, and currently has two stories with Muse It Up Publishing. You can find out more about her and her work at her blog, Home Is Where The Heart Is, http://janerichardsonhome.blogspot.co.uk/ and read excerpts from her work by clicking on the book covers. The quotation at the end of this article is from ‘Alice Through The Looking Glass’ by Lewis Carroll.
Thank you, Jane, for that thoughtful post. As a writer and a reader I couldn't agree with you more!