The good news is I managed to finish this book for the Slow Readers Club.
The bad news is that I have mixed feelings about it...
**there are definitely some spoilers in here if you haven't read the book**
Also, this is a fairly long review - I couldn't seem to stop writing...
I've never been a big fan of Alice in Wonderland - I always found the Disney film quite scary when I was younger and I have never had any intentions to read the book since. I didn't even see the new Alice film and I love Tim Burton... As a result my knowledge of Lewis Carroll a.k.a Charles Dodgson and Alice was pretty minimal and I didn't really have any expectations before I started reading.
At the start of the book I loved Alice - I loved her spirit, how she viewed everything and her enthusiasm for the things that she liked. Her outlook was refreshingly honest amongst her stiffled surroundings and she reminded me of other strong characters from books such as George from The Famous Five and Jo from Little Women who were stubborn yet passionate about their life and complete individuals. Initially I thought that her relationship with Charles was quite sweet, she obviously craved to be understood and he treated her kindly and more importantly accepted her for how she was.
I was quite surprised when the book jumped to further along her future and honestly a little disappointed/annoyed that her relationship with Charles Dodgson was consequently unexplained - I guess I'm a little bit of a romantic as I didn't necessarily see him as a threat to her and I would have been happy for him to wait for her, for her to stay true to herself and for them both to be happy... but things don't always work out that way, especially when based on historical events.
For me, the rest of the book was almost like reading a different book and character - all of a sudden Alice was older, her past was mysterious and her character had been stifled by her upbringing and her surroundings. The introduction of Leo was sudden and unexpected and knowing what I do of English High Society at the time, I knew there was no way that they could have been together...
However, my heart completely broke for Alice whilst I sat on the train crying as her love left her, her favourite sister died and her Mother uttered the worst phrase that any child could hear... whatever had happened in her past I did not feel that she deserved to suffer like that.
If you had asked me as soon as I had finished reading the book what I thought, I would have told you I really enjoyed it, however I think that really I just got caught up in the story. This itself tells you that the book has merit - the plot is interesting enough to keep you reading and you do want to reach the end. However after a few weeks thinking on it I am not sure I would read it again, or even recommend it to someone, as in the end the book was heartbreaking.
Alice lost her passion, her love, her sister, her family and she lost herself.
It also left many unresolved issues that once I started to do a little research just left me feeling confused. Some of the plot seemed a bit far fetched (mainly everything including Ruskin) and although Alice and Charles's relationship was definitely odd and at times quite uncomfortable, I never imagined there to be any horrific intentions on his part. It was only after researching a bit more that I found out about certain suggestions towards his lifestyle and his photography... maybe I just didn't want to see it that way.
In the end I think it's the historical uncertainty and the unanswered questions that leave me with an overall unsatisfied feeling rather than the story itself.