Book Club: The Looking Glass House by Vanessa Tait
Posted in: BOOKS AND WEB
The Looking Glass House is the first novel by Vanessa Tait. She is an English writer who is the great-granddaughter of Alice Liddell, otherwise known as the Alice who inspired Lewis Carroll to write Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
This intriguing and sometimes unsettling book draws on her family's stories to show us the real story of how the children's classic was written.
The story comes from the perspective of naive new governess Mary Prickett, who takes charge of the daughters of the Dean of Christ Church. The children she looks after seem more knowledgeable than her about many things and she doesn't like looking after Alice at all. She is also ill at ease in the new home and disoriented by everything around her.
Her life starts to change when she falls for the maths teacher Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) and sees that maybe there is a chance to enjoy life by his side. They all go on a punting trip together and as Charles regales them with the story of Alice's Adventures Mary realises that she needs to take some action in order to take Alice's place as his muse.
Tait has carried out plenty of research in order to present a factual and well-written book that gives us a fascinating look at the story behind one of the most popular books ever written, 150 years after it was first published. Despite her family connection with Alice, she manages to avoid making the story too saccharine or airbrushing out the awkward bits.
The book takes us on a fantastic journey through another time with different social settings and etiquettes. The author portrays it all convincingly and in Dodgson gives us a character that is charming, enigmatic and sometimes unsettling.
It is a great read, although the only person we really find out about is Mary. Dodgson's thoughts and the nature of his relationship with Alice have been discussed a lot over the years but there is little in the book that throws more light on this subject. Equally, Alice Liddell never gave away many details about their relationship either. This means that we are left with a superficial view of her as a child that is used to getting her own way and isn't particularly easy to like or sympathise with.
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