Friday Faves: Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

Each week I invite someone bookish to tell us about one of their all-time favourite works of fiction, and why it’s so special to them. This week’s Friday Fave comes from book blogger Kate Whelen:

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There’s one book that has been a constant in my life and as such,  it is very dear to me – Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll. Usually when people talk about Alice, the focus is on her adventures in Wonderland. I very much like her adventures but Through the Looking Glass has richness and depth and the characters are warm, endearing and a little muddled (not so brittle as the Wonderland crew). And the poems! They shine.

My earliest memory of hearing a poem recited was the brilliant and witty The Walrus and the Carpenter from Through the Looking Glass. My dad knew this poem by heart and would often recite it instead of a bedtime story, on the proviso that I followed the simple instruction – “Close your eyes and imagine the pictures!”

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes – and ships – and sealing-wax –
Of cabbages – and kings –
And why the sea is boiling hot –
And whether pigs have wings.”

Through the Looking Glass never left my bookshelf – or my cassette player. When I was twelve, I acquired an amazing recording of the book read by William Rushton. For years, I went to sleep every night listening to Rushton create Carroll’s characters – Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee, the Red and White Queens and the wonderfully picturesque White Knight. I still have the cassettes (I have searched in vain for a replacement on CD) and occasionally indulge myself by listening to them as I fall asleep (knowing that my cassette player could shred those ancient tapes at any moment!).

Through the Looking Glass has come full circle for me. My dragon-obsessed eight-year-old son understands the brilliance and wonder of the Jabberwocky and, before he could read, would beg to hear it over and over again. Of all my four children, he is the one that shares Alice with me – he appreciates the darkness of the story, the magic, the humour and often ponders the feasibility of the story-lines (“Because mum, it could happen.”).

To this day, when something fabulous happens, one line of the poem runs through my head –

“O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! He chortled in his joy.”

Aren’t those nonsense words just so wonderfully happy?

Kate Whelen is a freelance writer. She writes regularly for a design blog and specialises in natural resource management. When she’s not writing about technical stuff, she’s reading and sharing her thoughts on her ‘favourite time-waster’ Booksaremyfavouriteandbest

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