What happened before Alice fell down the rabbit hole?
Oxford, 1862. As Mary Prickett takes up her post as governess to the daughters of the Dean of Christ Church, she is thrust into a strange new world. Mary is poor and plain and desperate for change but the little girls in her care see and understand far more than their naive new teacher. And there is another problem: Mary does not like children, especially the precocious Alice Liddell.
When Mary meets Charles Dodgson, the Christ Church mathematics tutor, at a party at the Deanery, she wonders if he may be the person to transform her life. Flattered by his attentions, Mary begins to believe that she could be more than just an overlooked, dowdy governess.
One sunny day, as Mary chaperones the Liddells on a punting trip, Mr Dodgson tells the story of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. But Mary is determined to become Mr Dodgson’s muse and will turn all the lives around her topsy-turvy in pursuit of her obsession.
I’m a huge fan of Alice in Wonderland, and I always enjoy reading about the people behind the story. This book is less about Alice though, and more about her governess attempting to snare Charles Dodgson.
Mary is a thoroughly unlikeable character, the way she treats everyone she encounters is absolutely horrible, and watching her delusions progress is a little bit like watching a train wreck – you can’t quite look away. Alice isn’t much better, and is portrayed as a spoiled and impulsive little girl. Thinking back, not a single character stood out to me as one I could like.
That said, the whole book is very well written, and I didn’t even mind that the characters were not particularly pleasant. There are several easter eggs for Alice fans scattered throughout the book, which was a very nice touch. I also liked that it wasn’t yet another retelling from Alice or Dodgson’s point of view, they can get quite boring.
I’d recommend this one for fans of Alice and historical fiction, it was a nice way to spend an afternoon.
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.