The Looking Glass House

Written by Vanessa Tait
Review by Edward James

Vanessa Tait is the great-granddaughter of Alice Liddell, the Alice of Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass. In her childhood Vanessa was in demand as an Alice lookalike, so it was perhaps inevitable that she should write a novel about Alice and the writer whom she inspired, Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll).

The story is told not through the eyes of Alice or Charles but through those of Alice’s governess (‘the shadowy figure behind the glare of the children’), Mary Prickett. Mary was Alice’s real governess although there is no evidence that she was in love with Charles or that she engineered his break with the Liddell family out of jealousy of his relationship with Alice, which is the line taken in this book.

This is a Victorian pastiche, written in the whimsical, ingenuous style of the Alice books. It is an easy, entertaining read about a strange relationship between a seven-year-old girl and an Oxford don which we still struggle to understand.