Sunday, March 22, 2009

Alice in Sunderland: An Entertainment by Bryan Talbot

Books Completed: 69
Completion Date: March, 2009
Pages: 328
Publication Date: April, 2007

Reason for Reading: New Author Challenge, Graphic Novel Challenge
Sunderland! Thirteen hundred years ago it was the greatest center of learning in the whole of Christendom and the very cradle of English consciousness. In the time of Lewis Carroll it was the greatest shipbuilding port in the world. To this city that gave the world the electric light bulb, the stars and stripes, the millennium, the Liberty Ships and the greatest British dragon legend came Carroll in the years preceding his most famous book, Alice in Wonderland, and here are buried the roots of his surreal masterpiece. Enter the famous Edwardian palace of varieties, The Sunderland Empire, for a unique experience: an entertaining and epic meditation on myth, history and storytelling and decide for yourself - does Sunderland really exist?
I found this book very over-whelming! There was so much going on in it that I know I could read it five or six more times and find things that I missed the first time around! It was a mistake to take it out of the library. I strongly recommend buying this one if you plan to read it because it is a book you are going to want to keep flipping back through. I think it is also a book that needs to be explored a couple times just to be appreciated to its full extent because between the writing and the pictures there is a lot of stuff happening on each page! It was an over-whelming experience, but one that I really enjoyed!

I have to say... I did not really enjoy Lewis Carroll's novels. I know, I am off in the minority here, but I was never a huge fan. I am talking his two famous ones: Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. They sound like books I would love, but while I did like them, I am just not a huge fan. That being said, I find Lewis Carroll fascinating. I have read a lot about him as a person and I like hearing all the different theories on just who he was and what inspired him to write these books. It seems to me, no one really knows him. He is as big an enigma as some of the characters in his books. I wouldn't be surprised if Carroll wanted to be a mystery. It's unfortunate that he has gathered such a terrible reputation. In our society, he is a pedophile, but leading up to his society it was common-place for older men to marry way younger women. Really, who are we to judge? Anyway, Talbot takes a stab at his own theories on who Carroll was.

He also tackles history. He tackles a LOT of history! I found it really fascinating all the connections he made. He included famous figures and famous locations. It was a very visual armchair travel, but you also learned about the history at the same time. He ties this in with Carroll and how he was a visitor to the area and could have easily been influenced by it when he wrote his famous books. Talbot also talks about Alice. The real Alice. I have often wondered about her when Carroll or his books are mentioned. Carroll spent a lot of time with Alice when she was a child, sent her copies of all the different versions of the book, but hardly had an contact with her in her adulthood. That always struck me as odd; especially since she held on to all of the books he sent her throughout the years. It makes me wonder why they stopped talking, but all people can really do is hypothesize. The two people that know the truth are deceased.

Alice in Sunderland was a very worthwhile read. It might have just a bit too much going on to really get a grasp of everything, but I found it fun and interesting. I enjoyed the method that Talbot employed to tell his story and it is such a beautiful book! I can easily see me acquiring a copy of it somewhere down the road.

Highly recommended!


  1. I really loved this one, too! And you're so right about it just containing sooooo much! It took me almost the full six weeks I was allowed to have it out of the library just to get through it...I mean you just don't want to rush with this one, do you?

  2. Anonymous4:42 PM

    This may or may not help you, but one of the things I remember from my one class on Carroll was that he stopped talking with Alice Liddell because her mother disapproved his his interest. But again, that's people's speculation more than actual known fact.

    One of the other things I remember is my tutor remarking on how disturbing children must've thought those books were with all the size-changes and everything. (Personally, I sat there going "What do you mean disturbing? Isn't that fantastic?" but obviously that's just me.) So I'd say you're definitely not alone in not loving the Alice books!

    And that's all drifting horridly from the book you're actually discussing. ^-^; I do have this on my 'to read eventually' list because it sounds utterly fascinating. Your review makes me glad that when I get my hands on it, it'll likely be as a bought copy not a library copy. ^-^

  3. Aw! Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass are some of my favorite books! I love books based on the legend too (even sort of) like Frank Beddor's Looking Glass series, which I bet you would REALLY like.

  4. I agree that the sheer amount of information n this book was overwhelming, but I loved it too! I actually read a library was during my time in Nottingham, so I had access to a good library system. But I'd love to get my own copy at some point.

  5. I found this one really overwhelming too! I think I would've enjoyed it even more if it weren't so all over the place. But having said that, I still did enjoy it. And I'd definitely recommend buying this one as well!

    I've always found Carroll fascinating too and I found that my favorite parts of this book were the parts that focused on his life. Particularly his relationship with Alice Lidell.

  6. Debi: No, it is not something that should be rushed at all! I probably read it too fast because of the astronomical size of my TBR pile!

    libritouches: Yes, I have heard that speculation before. I like the mystery behind it, I guess. I hope you do get a chance to read this and you do buy it!

    Tink: I have read the first book in The Looking Glass series. I have the second one to read. Is the third one even out yet? I hadn't noticed.

    Nymeth: I'd love to own a copy simply because I think it would be fun to reread it a couple times.

    Chris: Yeah, it was all over the place. That's for sure! Some of my favourite parts were his relationship with Alice and his life, too.

  7. Anonymous9:26 AM

    I really do want to get a copy of this. It sounds like it is worth reading a few times to absorb all the information.

  8. Rhinoa: It was really good. I hope you get a chance to read it!

  9. I am not in love with the Alice stories themselves as much as I am the symbolism and theme of the stories. However, I became a much bigger fan when I read The Annotated Alice and learned more of where the ideas came from, the inside jokes, etc. I became a huge fan of Carroll's creativity at that point.

  10. Carl: Yes, one of these days I would really like to read the annotated version!

  11. Wow, I'm so impressed with everyone that got through this one! Mine was so far overdue to the library that I finally jumped ship and returned it. Definitely one I'm going to buy someday. Loved your review.

  12. Joanne: Yeah, there is a lot going on! I wouldn't mind owning it myself. I hope you get a chance to enjoy it!

  13. No it's still not out yet *sigh*

  14. Tink: Didn't think so. Seems to be taking a while. I have owned the second book for a while now!

  15. thanks for the heads up... i was thinking of buying the novel...


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