A Girl Called Alice by Christina Henry (Essay) – The Nightmareland Blog Book Tour

(Below is an essay written for the Nightmareland Book Blog Tour by Christina Henry for the promotion of her Alice and The Red Queen books. Big thank you to Christina for allowing me to be involved in this unique idea, and all those at Titan Books. Enjoy!)

A GIRL CALLED ALICE by CHRISTINA HENRY

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass is a tale beloved by millions, so embedded in our cultural memory that nearly everyone can conjure up an image of Alice – from the original story, a film remake, a game or one of many re-imaginings done by assorted authors through the years.

Alice has taken on the quality of myth, a character no longer bound to her creator or origin story but a modern-day legend open to interpretation like those other contemporary fairy tale figures from Neverland and Oz.

Many people have never read the original Alice but feel as though they have, because so many qualities about the Alice story have entered our shared lexicon – falling into a rabbit hole, for instance, is a phrase that’s taken on a meaning and life of its own quite apart from the original story.

And images from the story – the disappearing Cheshire Cat who leaves his smile behind, the Mad Hatter and the tea party – have become a kind of shorthand, s
hared experiences that make us feel like we’ve all been part of Wonderland for a very long time.

I asked my son why everyone loves Alice, and he immediately answered, “Because there’s adventure. And magic.” I think these are exactly the two qualities that attract children and adults to this story time and again.

There is something enchanting about a world that you can fall into, where there is adventure but somehow never any real danger (despite all of the Red Queen’s blustering about taking off Alice’s head I never worried, as a child, that such a thing would actually happen), and where magical things occur with matter-of-fact regularity.

Then there is Alice herself. She’s very pragmatic throughout the story, in a way that makes everything else real. The famous quote about believing six impossible things before breakfast was actually said by the White Queen in response to Alice’s remark that “one can’t believe impossible things.”

This is fairly astonishing given that Alice has already seen and done more impossible things than most people, but it’s her clear eyes that make her such an attractive character. Alice is very firmly rooted, and that fact roots the story as well. When a fantastic world has this kind of steady grounding it’s easy to believe in talking caterpillars and disappearing cats.

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Alice Through The Looking Glass (2016) – Film Review

Title: Alice Through The Looking-Glass

Cast: Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Mia Wasikowska, Rhys Ifans, Matt Lucas, Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen

Director: James Bobin

Genres: Action, Adventure, Disney, Fantasy, Book-to-Film Adaptation, Gothic

Rating: 3/5


As you can tell by the title of this blog, this particular reviewer has an affinity to Alice in Wonderland. I was named after that book, and have had it as part of my literary life as much as any other childhood book.

When Tim Burton released his 2010 reimagination of Lewis Carroll’s tale, I fell in love with how he took the original characters and put his own unique spin on what would happen if Alice grew up and returned to Underland (incorrectly named ‘Wonderland’ by the child Alice), and I assumed there would be a Looking Glass sequel. So when I saw it in the cialice_through_the_looking_glass_film_posternema with my boyfriend last week, I went in with all the expectations and knowledge from the book, but unfortunately came out a little disappointed.

We find Alice a few years after we left her in Burton’s original film. After rejecting Hamish’s marriage proposal and becoming a sea captain of her father’s ship, The Wonder, Alice has explored Asia and returns to England with a head full of plans, reports and expectations. However, her whole world comes crashing to a halt when she finds her mother in a perilous financial state, with the loss of her home and the ship looming thanks to the efforts of her daughter’s jilted suitor.

But as usual, Underland beckons, and Alice manages to find another Narnia-esque portal through a disused mirror. Alice soons tumbles back into the world of her childhood adventures, but she soons releases that all is not well in the magical land. The Mad Hatter seems to be in a depressive slump and falling farther and farther into madness, thanks to the memories of his deceased family, and Alice is dispatched to travel back through time and save his family from their brutal slaying by the Jabberwocky.

But in order to do so, Alice has to deal with Time. And Time isn’t just a abstract concept in this film, but an actual half human/half robotic demigod, whose prize possession is the exact thing Alice needs to steal to complete her mission.

The audience is then treated to a series of different time periods and origin stories. The Mad Hatter is shown as a young boy and then a fresh-faced youth who is the black sheep of his austere hatting family, and we are given new reasons for the Red Queen’s swollen head and her hatred for her sister. And through a series of incidents, Alice has to save the hatter, mend time as well as save her mother.

So, what did I think of the film? Well, like I’ve said, I adored the first film. I really enjoyed the cast (I still do in this film), love the setting and beauty of the CGI and imagination of Underland (I still do), and I really liked the dynamic and chemistry of the characters and how they interact. But this film was lacking something. Maybe due to the fact that Burton was only a producer and not the director of Looking Glass, but this film didn’t have the sparkle and zazz of the 2010 film.

The plot was busy, and wasn’t particularly strong in the plot points. The whole idea of Time was good, and I loved the setting of the clock and the visual element of that, but I didn’t necessarily think the Hatter’s family needing an origin story, and there wasn’t a need to alter time lines. However, I did enjoy seeing the young Red and White Queen, and where their quarrels and differences came from. null

I also loved the smaller details of the films, such as Time having creations he called seconds, which turned into minutes, and why the Red Queen was so keen to cut peoples heads off. But I did feel that it was slightly jumbled and too busy for one film.

The characters were also good, with the memorable cast of Johnny Depp playing a ditzy yet loveable Mad Hatter, and Mia Wasikowka’s Alice being a proper no nonsense and tomboyish version young woman. Sacha Baron Cohen’s personification of the robotic, German-accented Time was also a refreshing and comical feature, and there was real poignancy and emotion of hearing the late Alan Rickman’s voice as Absolem.

But all in all, I felt that despite it being an overall entertaining, light-hearted romp in Underland, this film was really missing something. It didn’t have the gothic beauty of Burton’s original film, nor was it particularly strong in plot wise or story wise. It just felt a bit distracting, colourful and all over the place. Which is shame.

In the words of the Mad Hatter from the first film, ‘You were much more… muchier. You’ve lost your muchness’.