Have you ever wanted to analyze Alice in Wonderland? It’s been picked apart by Freudians and other critics who look through its fantasy and fancy searching for deeper meanings Carroll likely didn’t intend. Still, there remains an aura of mystery surrounding Alice in Wonderland and its enigmatic author that compels us to dig into the story. In the Dodo Knight, Michelle Rene imagines the real Alice Lidell’s perspective on Lewis Carroll, known to her as Uncle Dodo.
Mr. Dodgson, a math professor at Oxford University, stuttered, so his name often came out Do-do-dodgson. For short, his many child-friends called him Dodo. He was a frequent playmate at the Liddell household. Mr. Liddell, Alice’s father, was dean of Dodgson’s college. But after a boating trip on July 4, 1962, Alice and her beloved Dodo hardly saw each other.
Oxford’s majestic setting and the subjects, whimsical Lewis Carroll and his young muse, Alice, make a perfect pairing for this imaginative tale. Oxford’s famous haunts and quirky characters are ripe with intrigue. Rene’s descriptions of places and people are pithy and clear, leaving room to picture and feel what’s going on without using too many words. “There is a space, however small, that provides a window to their mind. The tiny space behind Dodo’s eyes spoke of stress not discussed” (38). Such tantalizing hints at Dodo’s inner life, as detected by Alice, make the pages easy to turn.
The most pleasurable parts of the read – scenes of Dodo making up games he and the children play, and stories for them to hear – render the rift between Dodo and the Liddells all the more heartbreaking. The book is in part a coming of age story, about the pain of putting away childhood and becoming an adult. In some ways, Lewis Carroll, in his writing, got to remain a child while Alice didn’t.
The helpful author’s afterword sets fact apart from fiction. It invites further creative inquiry into other historic figures. Check out Michelle Rene’s other historical fiction. https://www.michellereneauthor.com/