Published: 2019 (it comes out today!)
Genre: historical fiction novella
Length: 134 pages
Setting: Victorian England, probably the mid-1800s
Summary: Short version: The story of Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell
Long version: Alice grew up as the middle daughter of three in Oxford. Her father was a dean at Christ Church college. One of her best family friends was Charles Dodgson, otherwise known as Lewis Carroll. Dodgson was a professor at the college. Unlike most adults at the time, he was interested in children and their stories. Dodgson had a stutter around adults. It was only when he was with children that he relaxed enough not to stutter. He would invent silly games and rhymes and stories to tell the children. Alice became his special muse, inspiring him to extra flights of fancy. Unfortunately, Alice’s older sister developed a crush on Dodgson and kissed him in the garden one day. Dodgson was not interested romantically in the children he played with (although he was in love with Mrs. Liddell). He was banned from the household and only remained in touch with Alice through some letters.
Final thoughts: This book perfectly encapsulates the goal of historical fiction – it made me feel like it was written by someone who was there and it put me right in the middle of the story. In this case, the story was told from the point of view of Alice Liddell, focusing on her time growing up with Charles Dodgson. It felt so real, I had to remind myself the story was fiction. Of course, it’s written about a real person and taken from real events, but the details are made up.
The length was perfect as well. It’s long enough that you get lots of details about Alice’s life, growing up in Victorian England with a special, adult friend who likes to play. It’s also short enough that you can devour the whole story in one sitting.
I’ve always felt like the connection between Lewis Carroll (aka Charles Dodgson) and Alice Liddell was a little creepy. This book (and the epilogue) remind us that times were different in Victorian England. Also, we are reminded that adults, and more specifically adult men, can enjoy being with children without there being a sexual undertone. Dodgson was the Liddell girls’ Uncle Dodo. He liked to play, and adults of that time period were just too serious for him. It was only with children that he could let himself relax and let out all the silliness. Now, we love his silliness. I must admit, I find Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland a bit trippy, but I think his poetry is amazing, especially with all the made up words.
I appreciated that Rene didn’t stay in the Alice’s childhood. The story is told as adult Alice’s reminisces. Therefore, it’s only logical that we see how it all played out. It starts out very lighthearted, as we get to play with Alice and her sisters. Kids grow, though, and become interested in more than just play. I felt a bit heartbroken when Alice had to sell her original copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Seeing it again as an older woman, but only under glass, just twisted the knife a bit deeper.
Title comes from: Because Dodgson stuttered, he often repeated the first syllables of his last name. This children turned it into a special pet name – Dodo. He was Alice’s White Knight from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
Reading challenges fulfilled: none since this was so short
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