13 Down: 37 to Go – Alice Behind Wonderland

On a recent flight I happened to be seated next to a best-selling author.  Intriguing to me since I’m an avid reader and Simon Winchester just happened to be an interesting an engaging person.  He’s the author of The Professor and the Madman, which you may have seen on bookshelves and best-seller lists.

I decided to start with Alice Behind Wonderland.  Last year I read a really interesting novel called Alice I have Been by Melanie Benjamin.  The novel was the story of girl, Alice Liddell, who was the inspiration for Alice of Alice in Wonderland.  That work of historical fiction was a good primer for Winchester’s book.

His research takes the reader on an interesting ‘little’ (this is a quick read) journey behind the camera lens of Charles Dodgson who you may know as Lewis Carroll–author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass.

Winchester’s work explores the story behind this photo of Alice Liddell:

Alice Liddell was the daughter of the dean of Christ Church College inOxford. Her parents and siblings were friends of Dodgson’s and he photographed all the Liddell children and others.  Alice is the only one to appear in such a pose – this photo is called ‘Alice Liddell as The Beggar Maid’.  She is the child to whom Dodgson first narrated the story of Alice’s adventures in Wonderland and it was at her request that he turned this tale into a book.

This photograph, and Dodgson’s fascination with children has been reviewed by many but Winchester offers more of an explanation of Victorian photography.  As I read this book, I thought of the intricacies of photography I often see on blogs – I just have a point and shoot digital camera and am not a photographer by any means!  Those who have fancy cameras and are passionate about photography would enjoy this look at the history of the development of the camera.

With that I’m going back to my bookshelves to pick my Summer reads.  I need to work on writing up posts for #s 14, 15, 16…I’m still on track for my 50 Books in 2012!  I need at least a week on a beach to catch up on my reads.

What are some of your Summer reads?

12 Down, 38 to Go: A Spell of Winter

Last week included 4 airplane rides which meant reading time!

I grabbed a couple of books for the road and finished A Spell of Winter by Helen Dunmore just as my final flight was getting close to Madison.  The book is the winner of the inaugural (1996) Orange Prize for fiction.  The prize “celebrates excellence, originality and accessibility in women’s writing from throughout the world. The winner receives a cheque for £30,000 and a limited edition bronze known as a ‘Bessie’, created by the artist Grizel Niven.”  (Source)

A Spell of Winter was one of my recent purchases at a local used book sale.  A few reviews describe the novel as gothic and full of paranoia.  My favorite descriptor is:

“Not many novels grab the reader’s lapels with the opening sentence, but this is one.  We plunge headlong into Dunmore’s dark and creepy tale, an update of such Gothic literary classics as Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre.”  Houston Chronicle.

I don’t want to give much of the story away because I highly recommend this book.  It takes place in England early in the twentieth century – during and immediately after World War I.  I will tell you that there is love, drama, suspense, incense, and heartache.  It really was gripping and one where I found myself needing to know what was next!

Up next is The Alice Behind Wonderland by Simon Winchester.  Simon was my seat-mate on a flight home last week and we had a delightful conversation.  He is really very interesting and I look forward to reading his books.  Lucky me, the voracious reader, to be seated next to a best-selling author.