I’m ashamed to say that this reading of Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass was my first. Blush! Please don’t wait thirty-four years like me. It is wonderful: funny, clever, imaginative and completely captures the child in you.
Some of the language would be considered too advanced for children by todays writing and publishing experts. However, some of the trickier words are explained in the back of the book. Parents and schools may think this is a great idea, but speak to anyone in the writing industry and they will say that the most important thing is to getting the child to read and enjoy books without having to stop and start and loose the thread of the story, which will lead to the child giving up on the book. Anyway, we’re not talking children here, we’re talking adults.
Through the Looking Glass, originally published in 1871, it is the sequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. However, Looking Glass completely stands alone and it is not necessary to have read Wonderland.
Carroll begins this tale with a sleepy Alice who is fascinated by the potential of the world inside a vast mirror hanging over the fireplace. She wonders at the differences of the other world, “I can see all of it when I get upon a chair – all but the bit just behind the fireplace.” P12. Intriguing! Along with Kitty she ventures in and takes us on the journey with her.
One of the best things for me about this book was the craziness. The characters are very matter-of-fact in their dialogue and they use words and language differently to Alice, “Feather! Feather!’ the Sheep cried again,” p72. We don’t really know what this means and never really find out. “’Oh, please! There are some scented rushes!’ Alice cried in a sudden transport of delight. They really are –and such beauties’!’ / ‘You needn’t say “please” to me about ‘em,’ the Sheep said, without looking up from her knitting: ‘I didn’t put ‘em there, and I’m not going to take ‘em away.’” P73. Throughout the book we see how Alice’s polite English is not understood by the mirrors’ inhabitants. It’s interesting to be shown in a children’s book how language is used, understood and misunderstood.
English and the way we use it is questioned throughout, for example, “’I see nobody on the road,’ said Alice. / ‘I only wish I had such eyes,’ the King remarked in a fretful tone. ‘To be able to see Nobody! And at the distance too! Why it’s as much as I can do to see real people, by this light!’” p94.
The story is short and you can nip through this book with some pace as its flows fantastically. As an adult you really do want to find out what happens next and who will Alice will stumble upon. It has a dream-like state which allows you to accept anything that happens. So, when the Queen suddenly starts bleating and turns into an obsessively knitting sheep, you don’t even question it: you chuckle and romp on.
I absolutely recommend this book for all ages. Please read it, it won’t take long and you’ll get so much out of it, especially if you are interested in writing and language. There is so much more I could talk about in this little paperback, but I’m not going to ruin it for you. The copy I was reading (and will probably read again) is, Collins Classics, Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll, 2010, Harper Collins.