This week is going to be a bit shorter than normal folks. Both Erin and I have had a couple crazy weeks between Erin moving positions temporarily at our work and myself dealing with some health things flaring up like crazy. But we wanted to make sure you all got something while we get a great post covering Sarah J Maas’s new addition to the Court series ready for you. At the same time, we are also working on an amazing post talking about The Lost Apothecary where we have an interview with author Sarah Penner.
Since we had tough weeks, we decided to go back to our childhoods and take in a classic novel. It was great nostalgia and for myself, I didn’t have to think overly hard for it. Which was both a curse and a blessing since we chose a book that really needs some brain cells. Soon we will go back to the newer titles but, in the meantime, down the rabbit hole we go with Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland.
“Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (commonly shortened to Alice in Wonderland) is an 1865 novel by English author Lewis Carroll (the pseudonym of Charles Dodgson). It tells of a young girl named Alice, who falls through a rabbit hole into a subterranean fantasy world populated by peculiar, anthropomorphic creatures.”
A: I read this book as a kid and multiple times as I grew up… It’s in my top ten favourite children’s classics but fairly low down with Wizard of Oz super high up there even though they are fairly similar in general plot and ideas. But it wasn’t until retellings became part of my periphery that I really dove deep into Wonderland. Yet it is possibly the book/ Disney movie that I quote the most and that I have the most “swag” for. Cheshire Cat was literally the first Disney stuffie I bought for myself (and as an adult) and I had no shame taking it to any movie night at a friend’s house or the drive in as it is seriously the most comfortable pillow ever.
E: I was first introduced to Alice through Disney. I must have been old enough to not be afraid of it because my younger sister really didn’t like it. I definitely found it odd, but was drawn to it nonetheless. I, however, didn’t read Carroll’s work until my teens. By that time what I found the most fascinating thing was the author himself. I wanted to know so badly what he was like, what his mental state was (if it was true the book came to life thanks to hallucinogens). In my experience, fantasy authors tend to take themes from myths and reshape them. Alice though, is so completely bizarre I don't find it fits the mold of anything I’ve read before. I mean there is the classic, good triumphs over evil, as Alice is the heroine of this tale. But still, it's all so random and original it captivated me instantly because I wanted to know how this world had come to be. Maybe it was so intriguing because Carroll is long gone, his story never told and we will never know exactly why he created Wonderland as he did.
A: I consider Wonderland itself as a character, the same way that I consider all the various lands in Oz as characters in themselves. Wonderland is so well thought out in its insanity that it feels like it’s the place causing the insanity in the people. Setting can really be the make it or break it for pieces of literature. Because the world itself is nuts, we can believe the character’s quirks that much more. Alice herself, sadly, is my least favourite character in Wonderland. I think that is why it is always so low on my top ten list. She is so annoying from the start in an unbelievable way. She never questions anything too much from the moment she sees the rabbit and is falling down the rabbit hole. One of the lines at the very start says that she has seen so much unbelievable stuff that nothing surprises her anymore as she is falling but as a reader, I only counted like three things that we were told she saw. If this line was later on in the book, I’d totally get it. But it’s been like two minutes of falling down a rabbit hole (which already should be too small for her to fall down) and she is rambling like she is a regular resident of Wonderland.
E: I definitely don’t consider this a young child’s book even if it is categorized that way. I would want to place it on the older kid spectrum of things. The combination of violence and weirdness leads me to believe it was almost more a tale for adults. We can get into how this story is a story for children by way of its fantastical creatures and funny happenings. But there is the sinister side to Alice, the beheadings, the bipolar, schizophrenic and mental illnesses displayed by the characters. It makes me wonder if it's supposed to be a nice, witty story, or something more-- a strange insight about exploring human fears, human nature.
A: So many “kids” books are like this from this era which is kinda weird to think about knowing how society perceived things back then. I mean take Oz for example as well. One of the “big bads” literally took people’s heads and would change her head out depending on her mood that day. The Gnome King would turn people into ornaments. I think Dorothy might have killed or really badly maimed other children in the Oz China village (China as in like plates). It’s almost like they had more faith in their children being able to handle darker matters than we are today.
E: I think this is why in terms of retellings they are often quite dark. Some of the books we featured on instagram this past week were “Heartless” by Marisa Meyer, the Queen of Hearts Saga by Colleen Oakes and the Splintered series by A.G. Howard. A similar theme I find amongst all these books is that they highlight the darkness and brutality of Wonderland.
A: Which is probably exactly why my gothic heart loves Wonderland as a whole especially as a rich retelling spectrum. YA can really take these already dark children’s classics and bring them forth with even deeper exploration. I loved how deeply Splintered looked at mental health for example while the Queen of Hearts Saga looked at the possible why for what caused such a ruthless ruler of this fantastical land. Even movies and video games have dived deep into the gothic horror that is poorly hidden in this novel with Tim Burton’s films and the American McGee Alice games. Which I want to shout out to how adorably evil the American McGee cheshire cat is. Google it if your dare.
As of this post, I (Ashli) have received my copy of A Court of Silver Flames in the mail so keep your eyes peeled as Erin goes insanely deep into this addition to the Court Series by Sarah J Maas and I pine for my girl Bryce from Maas’ Crescent City series. Till next time, stay cozy!