On a summer's day in 1858, in a garden behind Christ Church College in Oxford, Charles Dodgson, a lecturer in mathematics, photographed six-year-old Alice Liddell, the daughter of the college dean, with a Thomas Ottewill Registered Double Folding camera, recently purchased in London.
Simon Winchester deftly uses the resulting image - as unsettling as it is famous, and the subject of bottomless speculation - as the vehicle for a brief excursion behind the lens, a focal point on the origins of a classic work of English literature. Dodgson's love of photography framed his view of the world, and was partly responsible for transforming a shy and half-deaf mathematician into one of the world's best-loved observers of childhood. Little wonder that there is more to "Alice Liddell as the Beggar Maid" than meets the eye. Using Dodgson's published writings, private diaries, and of course his photographic portraits, Winchester gently exposes the development of Lewis Carroll and the making of his Alice.
©2011 Simon Winchester (P)2011 HarperCollinsPublishers
I won't comment on the controversy around the photo. The story is quite brilliant in tracing the beginnings of photography, and Dodgson finding his voice and famous pseudonym. Winchester is an excellent story teller and always dependable. In this instance, the story is too short. When lost for something to read, I turn to Winchester and am never disappointed.
Never lonely with a good book in hand
The narration was so well done, lovely accent and excellent vocabulary. The story itself (written by the narrator, one of the few authors I felt did a good job). The story of Alice Liddell and the history of photography which was fascinating and so important to Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) kept my attention past bedtime, as a good book will do. I'm looking forward to releasing ALICE IN WONDERLAND as well as more books by Simon Winchester.
This is wonderful and insightful book on Charles Dodgson and his obsession with photography, his relationship with the Liddell family and the origin of Alice in a Wonderland. The author reads the book, and I've always liked the treat of hearing the writer narrate. It is a short, concise story, but rich in illumination.
The best part of this book is the author, Simon Winchester. His narration and use of words (in all of his books) is extraordinary. Beyond that, a somewhat interesting story about Charles Dodgson.
I really love many of Mr. Winchester's books. I was disappointed in this one because so many of his assertions about Alice sound like they are made up from his perceptions of her expression the photographs taken of her. Although there may be scholarly research to back up the idea that her life was disappointing after having such a lovely and magical childhood, he does not mention it in the text. It sounds like he looked at pictures of her and decided what she was thinking and feeling based on her expression. If there is a surviving diary or some other hard evidence other than reading into her expression in the photographs I would have liked to hear him reference it, as he did with Dodgson's diaries.
Interesting history but lacks the scientific depth of other previous Winchester books
Alice Above the Ground
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