Through the Looking-Glass (#2) by Lewis Carroll

Published: June 25th 1998
Goodreads badgePublisher: Oxford University Press
Pages: 133
Format: Book
Genre: Fantasy/Literature
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Nothing is quite what it seems once Alice journeys through the looking-glass, and Dodgson’s wit is infectious as he explores concepts of mirror imagery, time running backward, and strategies of chess-all wrapped up in the exploits of a spirited young girl who parries with the Red Queen, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, and other unlikely characters.

Since we did Wonderland of course we had to do the sequel. I do not really have any preference between the two, there are favourite moments in both. I think the problem is Wonderland is much more well known, and the parts that  have been borrowed from Looking-Glass are mistaken for being in Wonderland which is a shame. This second Alice book is set a few years after the Wonderland adventures; Alice looks older and Dinah has grown and has kittens of her own. Through the Looking-Glass takes Alice into another strange land that begins when she walks through the mirror into Looking-glass House.

Unlike Wonderland there is a lot more structure to the world.
The absurdities and irrationalities remain, but the land is set out like a chess board, and the characters Alice meets are players on the board. When Alice meets the Red Queen she gives Alice and the readers a summary of what is going to happen through the rest of the book. Since the world is divided into squares she tells us that at the Seventh Square Alice will meet the Knight, and Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum at the fourth. You do tend to forget that it is a chess game as you read but the rules of the game are woven throughout. Alice is given the position of the pawn and therefore is only allowed one square at a time. The goal, like chess, is to get to the other side unharmed.

The way Carroll has constructed the Looking-Glass world is amazing and there has been a lot of thought put into this to replicate the game. This book also has one of my all time favourite poems in it: The Walrus and the Carpenter. I first fell in love with this poem from watching Harriet the Spy of all things, and I often wondered how you could have ceiling wax, and what it actually was. That is until I learned about sealing wax that was used in letter writing. It made slightly more sense, but in terms of the poem not a whole lot changed. There is the Jabberwocky poem, but the best has to be the Walrus and the Carpenter. Carroll weaves these poems though the novel, just as he did in Alice in Wonderland, and once again accompanies them with stunning black and white drawings.

This new land does confuse Alice a bit more in certain areas but she recovers well. There are a lot of familiar characters such as the talking flowers, Tweedle Dee and Dum of course, and a few others that are less well known but very funny indeed. The ending is once again instantly devoid of any mystery. I think Carroll likes to demonstrate that imagination of a child rather than give us a wonderful world that could be true or could not be. He does not leave anything unclear. However there is a moment with Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum where they remark whether Alice is within the dream of the sleeping Red King or whether he is in her dream. That is as far as the analysis of the world gets.

I do think if you are going to read Wonderland you have to read this as well. If you came to these book as a fan of a movie – even the Disney one, it will be good because a lot of book two was used in the Disney film and some of one character’s attributes were transferred to other people; you may find your favourite character was not actually who you thought. If not for that reason than simply because it is a strange and peculiar book that somehow manages to make a lot of sense while still being strange but very enjoyable. If you love the absurd than this will be great, but it is not so bad as to cause any confusion, Carroll does restrain himself in that sense.

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