he author’s note at the beginning of the book explains how he created a stage musical from the original work and then a few years later he was approached about making a book from the stage musical. So, this novel is an evolution of book to musical back to book format. In all fairness, I will need to open this review with the confession that I have never read the original Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll; neither have I seen the musical Alice by Heart. Perhaps if I had, this book would have made more sense. Perhaps if I had, then I would declare the evolution and transfigurations brilliant. But, alas, I have not and so my experience with the novel Alice by Heart was a confused and tedious one.
The writing style was unique with its punctuation, vocabulary, and sentence structure. There were 1940’s characters that obviously echoed the characters from Wonderland. The scenes between the 1940’s Underground station and the book and the in-between (?) were so fluid as to be disorienting–although there were glimpses of the theatrical roots to the scenes that hinted at what could be better achieved in a staged rendition of the work. The scenes that made the most sense were the flashback which were in italics and written in more of a straightforward telling. The rest of the time the reader was left to try and suss out how much of this was really happening and how much, if any, was happening only in the character’s mind, and ultimately, if any of it happened at all or if it was primarily a symbolic portrayal of states of being. Being so untethered and disoriented, it was difficult to engage in a narrative that didn’t have much of a plotline and was some kind of internal, mental journey for Alice.
So, Philistine that I am, this written effort was wasted on me. However, for those die-hard fans of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland or of the musical, Alice by Heart, my guess is that they will enjoy it and find new layers to explore.
This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by Razorbill
Profanity/Language: 15 religious exclamations; 1 derogatory name; 3 anatomical terms.
Violence/Gore: Many references to currently happening and (past) bombing of London during WWII; character recalls running through bombed city and bricks falling on friend, injuring; report a girl killed in bombing raid; historical photo of soldier, who appears to be dead; character recalls bombing that destroyed her house, probably killed her sister, and the deaths of others; sick character coughs blood; it is understood that a character eventually dies but it is never explicitly stated; character “man-handled” roughly a couple of times; personal property taken from a character and destroyed; two characters struggle; character sees a bloodied girl on a stretcher; reference to bodies blown to bits.
Sex/Nudity: Several separate references to a teenager’s snugly fitting blouse and others looking at her chest; character thinks about kissing upon a few occasions; sexual innuendo; boy gives unwanted attention to a girl, putting arm around her, restraining her; young man makes several crude references to his genitals with innuendo; boy smacks a girl’s bottom.
Mature Subject Matter:
World War II, illness (tuberculosis), death.
Alcohol / Drug Use:
A young man (age unclear) smokes opium; caterpillars (Alice in Wonderland) smoke; scene which is very unclear as to whether it is “in” or “out” of book where “caterpillars” pressure Alice into smoking in order to forget her troubles and stop time.