“I said you LOOKED like an egg, Sir. And some eggs are very pretty, you know.”
Just as the book preceding this one acted as a palate cleanser, Through The Looking Glass was a literary oasis for me; a brief, whimsical respite between two fearfully oppressive books. After Tess of the D’Urbervilles almost broke my brain, Lewis Carroll was there to lift my spirits with another dose of fantastical invention and frivolity, with a book that is childish in the best possible sense.
I’ll try to explain what I mean. With his writing style, Carroll channels the boundless enthusiasm of a child; he occasionally remarks on the ridiculousness of the situations he takes his reader to, but he’s normally far too busy taking us through them than he is about creating a cogent narrative. This frees him up to focus entirely on creating new stuff, and twisting our brains any which way he chooses.
Compared to the last book, Alice is a much less irritating heroine this time around, and therefore much more interesting to spend time with. She actively tries to understand and sympathise with the characters and situations much more, and reacts in a much more believable way.
The book also contains many familiar elements that, along with many elements in the original book, have found their way into popular culture. My personal favourite had to be the incredible and nonsensical satire of epic poetry, The Jabberwocky. (Sidenote – the single best moment in the “Alice In Wonderland” film from a few years ago was this one where Johnny Depp recites the whole poem in his least convincing but most beautiful-sounding Scottish accent). Also worthy of note were the garden of talking flowers, who were fantastically sassy, and the unicorn who was as astonished that Alice was real as Alice was astonished to find he was real!
I also liked how Alice’s mirror-based method of entry into this fantasy world was brought to bear on the plot, such as how time ran backwards in a few scenes, and even the Jabberwocky poem was written in mirror writing to begin with. The book also retains the familiar disregard for common sense in both plotting and language that made the first book such a joy.
I think I probably preferred this book to the original, if I was forced to pick a favourite – the first had a few too many verses of poetry which slowed the story down, whereas in this one Alice seems quite aware of this possibility and does all she can to speed the story along. All told, both books come highly recommended, if only because everyone should indulge themselves in a little nonsense from time to time, and I look forward to the day when they make films of these books that do them justice.
“The Red Queen shook her head. “You may call it ‘nonsense’ if you like,” she said, “but I’ve heard nonsense, compared with which that would be as sensible as a dictionary!”