What a strangely fascinating book. I was reading To the River by Olivia Laing, which I have still to finish due to losing interest, and in her book she writes about Lewis Carroll or maybe it was Kenneth Grahame, I can’t remember. Anyway, the next day I am in the University Library and I see this book, Inventing Wonderland, which documents the lives and fantasies of Lewis Carroll, Edward Lear, J. M. Barrie, Kenneth Grahame and A. A. Milne. Something made me take it home and 24 hours later I had finished it.
Wullschlager has researched the authors’ personal lives and documents some very interesting details. Many of these authors didn’t want to grow up themselves and felt happier remaining childlike well into middle age and beyond. Nearly all had young children as friends, however nowadays, I believe Lewis Carroll’s unsettling behaviour would potentially label him a paedophile.
The book also looks at the rise of children’s literature throughout the late 19th Century into the early 20th Century. It is interesting to see the gradual movement from Caroll’s idea of innocent little girls, through Barrie’s ever-young boys to Milne’s nostalgia for a youthful, untroubled world. This progression reflected the changes in society and culture throughout those decades.
This book is fascinating and although it could be classified as an academic text it is easy to read and keeps you turning the pages. It definitely brought back happy memories of these amazing books we all read and loved as children.