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Inventing Wonderland: the Lives and Fantasies of Lewis Carroll, Edward Lear, J.M. Barrie, Kenneth Grahame and A.A. Milne

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Beautifully illustrated throughout, Inventing Wonderland gives new insights into the Victorian world and our own modern view of the child, as seen through the lives and fantasies of Lewis Carroll, Edward Lear, J.M. Barrie, Kenneth Grahame, and A.A. Milne. 15 line drawings. of photos.


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Beautifully illustrated throughout, Inventing Wonderland gives new insights into the Victorian world and our own modern view of the child, as seen through the lives and fantasies of Lewis Carroll, Edward Lear, J.M. Barrie, Kenneth Grahame, and A.A. Milne. 15 line drawings. of photos.

30 review for Inventing Wonderland: the Lives and Fantasies of Lewis Carroll, Edward Lear, J.M. Barrie, Kenneth Grahame and A.A. Milne

  1. 5 out of 5

    Eleanor Toland

    I read this as research for my Master's Degree in English Literature and found it a great disappointment. The book is riddled with inaccurancies. E. Nesbit's name is consistently mispelled as E.E. Nesbit, Pan the Faun God of the Ancient Greeks, is called a 'Centaur' several times, the ending of the book of 'A Little Princess' is confused with the film of the same name, despite the author supposedly being educated at Oxford. I think the most baffling part was her statement that no great children' I read this as research for my Master's Degree in English Literature and found it a great disappointment. The book is riddled with inaccurancies. E. Nesbit's name is consistently mispelled as E.E. Nesbit, Pan the Faun God of the Ancient Greeks, is called a 'Centaur' several times, the ending of the book of 'A Little Princess' is confused with the film of the same name, despite the author supposedly being educated at Oxford. I think the most baffling part was her statement that no great children's fiction has been written after Winnie-the-Pooh, which is so clearly untrue it hardly needs to be discussed. Also, this woman seems to have a truly sordid obsession with child molestation. I can't imagine why Lolita and Humbert Humbert were mentioned so many times in a book supposedly about Victorian and Edwardian children's writers. All in all, one to avoid for anyone wanting a deeper discussion of these authors, though it's OK if you just want potted biographies filled with sleazy innuendo about paedophilia. Oh, did I mention she said Edward Lear's drawings of big noses were phallic? Yeah...

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kat

    An interesting look at the genesis of children's fantasy literature through the lives of 5 seminal authors. Examines the social and sexual repressions that shaped each writer and the world he created. I am interested to read other biographies about these men, to see what a biographer with an entirely different agenda makes of the same letters, etc. It seems clear to me which works the author read as a child, and which were read later - she is dismissive of newer, 'upstart' fantasy worlds like Na An interesting look at the genesis of children's fantasy literature through the lives of 5 seminal authors. Examines the social and sexual repressions that shaped each writer and the world he created. I am interested to read other biographies about these men, to see what a biographer with an entirely different agenda makes of the same letters, etc. It seems clear to me which works the author read as a child, and which were read later - she is dismissive of newer, 'upstart' fantasy worlds like Narnia (citing the ham-handed use of Christian symbolism). However, many adults read the Narnia stories as secular tales and loved them on their own merits, unaware until much later of the blatant religious overtones. Additionally, she disregards fantasy worlds conceived originally for adults but adopted by older children (like Anne McCaffrey's Pern books)- though these concepts fall largely outside the scope of this book. Overall, I found the book interesting, and agree with the biographer's suppositions. However, I felt that her preference for certain works was marked, as was her assumption that the five major works chronicled were nursery reading for all of us.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Skye

    I can not help loving this, for the Gentlemen's lives it contains, all of whom were replacement Grandfathers and Father Christmases to me, telling me bed time stories and giving me sweets, a link with the pre-war past where I belonged so much more than here. I love them all. Yet I don't think Ms Wullschlager and I would get on very well, having greatly different opinions and ways of understanding these works. I'd much rather read C.S. Lewis's thoughts on these Masters, as he knew how to read a bo I can not help loving this, for the Gentlemen's lives it contains, all of whom were replacement Grandfathers and Father Christmases to me, telling me bed time stories and giving me sweets, a link with the pre-war past where I belonged so much more than here. I love them all. Yet I don't think Ms Wullschlager and I would get on very well, having greatly different opinions and ways of understanding these works. I'd much rather read C.S. Lewis's thoughts on these Masters, as he knew how to read a book as both an adult and a child at once and double the pleasure. 'The progression shows how the fantasy worlds of children's books gradually came closer to reality, until eventually the inventiveness of English children's literature ran out.' Just two years after this book was published, Ms Rowling proved just how wrong this author's premise was.

  4. 4 out of 5

    treva

    This serves as an interesting introduction to the biographies and historical/cultural contexts of each author, but I think longer works devoted to each author specifically would yield more valuable insight. I'm eternally weary of Freudian-style analysis, and I do find it odd that she referenced Nabokov and Salinger more than once, but L. Frank Baum -- a genuine contemporary in era, genre, and enthusiasm for children -- never. I get that he's American and she was focusing on England, but it still This serves as an interesting introduction to the biographies and historical/cultural contexts of each author, but I think longer works devoted to each author specifically would yield more valuable insight. I'm eternally weary of Freudian-style analysis, and I do find it odd that she referenced Nabokov and Salinger more than once, but L. Frank Baum -- a genuine contemporary in era, genre, and enthusiasm for children -- never. I get that he's American and she was focusing on England, but it still seems a gross oversight.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ruth

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This book was far more gripping than a non-fiction book has any right to be. I actually stayed up late to finish it. Still not sure I buy that nothing happened between Barrie and Carroll and the objects of their respective obsessions, but that's just me. All in all, if -- like me -- you are fascinated by children's literature and Victorian literature, this is the book for you.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Camden

    Reading this book at an impressionable age is probably what warped my mind into the psychoanalytic critic it is today. Whoops. I have very fond memories of this book, but I was also like 14 when I read it -- no idea at all of its actual literary or critical value. I do remember it wrecking every romantic illusion I ever held about J.M. Barrie. Adding this to the reread shelf, for sure.

  7. 4 out of 5

    The Mole

    When I ordered this book, I was excited to see a cross comparison of some of my favorite authors and their works. However, my excitement soon turned to sore disappointment. Instead of a well-researched and well thought out look at the lives and work of these five men, instead I found a book filled with unproven accusations, suppositions about what the authors meant and thought and felt, and a large dose of amateur Freudian analysis. Here are just a few of the many unproven suppositions, taken ra When I ordered this book, I was excited to see a cross comparison of some of my favorite authors and their works. However, my excitement soon turned to sore disappointment. Instead of a well-researched and well thought out look at the lives and work of these five men, instead I found a book filled with unproven accusations, suppositions about what the authors meant and thought and felt, and a large dose of amateur Freudian analysis. Here are just a few of the many unproven suppositions, taken randomly: "Today, many children fine the Alice books frightening, confusing or just too difficult." (Page 55) "It is hard not to see in Alice a comic, nonsense version of a Victorian Everyman, bewildered by change, tormented by religious doubt, terrified of an empty, godless cosmos." (Page 50) "Sexual repression, a hint of child sexuality bubbling under the surface, is a driving force in Peter Pan." (Page 128) --- The entire book fills as if it began as a hypothesis and then relevant sources were searched to find evidence supporting the hypothesis. Each account of these men's lives is negative, focusing on negative influences or experiences and rarely including anything positive about them. Likewise, this book has a strong sexual orientation, focusing greatly on any actual or supposed sexual deviations. The author mentions pedophilia in every chapter and constantly refers to "Lolita". --- Even if one were to set aside the large number of unsupported accusations (well over 100, nearly one on every page), there are many passages and references in this book that makes the reader wonder if the author even READ the books in question. Examples: "... but not once in the writing does he [Kenneth Grahame] mention parents." (Page 148). Which is simply not true. Baby otter's DAD is out looking for him, Toad's father is mentioned several times, and the two little boys lost in the snow and found (and fed) by Badger talk about how mom made them go to school. And don't forget the gaoler'd daughter (thereby the gaoler is the father) and the daughter's grandmother... "At the heart is Pooh, self-centered, affectionate, innocent, bewildered by adult life, obsessed with food, so greedy..." (Page 189) "What draws both adults and children to the books [Pooh] is the ironic biting tone mixed in with the safe setting." (Page 189) "He [Milne] invented characters who lie and cheat, who are fearful and ignorant, who are self-doubting and confused..." (Page 205) And one more... "In Grahame's 'The Wind in the Willows' (1908) a group of animals, much like boys, mess about in boats, picnic and party." (Page 28) Which is just silly, as while they DO get in boats and picnic IN CHAPTER ONE, they never party. And they do a great deal more than simply that... --- With all of this in mind, I say, emphatically, avoid this book! It’s neither academic nor honest. There is nothing in it that will enlighten your understanding of these men and their work. I’m honestly shocked it ever saw print.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Avril

    I suspect some of the errors of the first edition have been corrected in this later one, and it does end with a new chapter that looks at later twentieth-century children's fantasy written by British authors, although there is a still a reference in the body of the book to the Winnie-the-Pooh stories by A. A. Milne being the last of the British children's fantasy books which I, as a reader of Lewis and Tolkien, found bizarre. Wullschlager's connection between the Victorian and Edwardian worship o I suspect some of the errors of the first edition have been corrected in this later one, and it does end with a new chapter that looks at later twentieth-century children's fantasy written by British authors, although there is a still a reference in the body of the book to the Winnie-the-Pooh stories by A. A. Milne being the last of the British children's fantasy books which I, as a reader of Lewis and Tolkien, found bizarre. Wullschlager's connection between the Victorian and Edwardian worship of the child, the psycho-sexual development of the authors, and the books themselves, is interesting, and she doesn't make the mistake of reading paedophilia back into Carrol and Barrie's relationships with children. (Ruskin, on the other hand, seems much less innocent to me.) During the Freudian years of the twentieth century, when everything was about sex, there would have been no escape from such a reading; post-Freud we can acknowledge the possibility of asexuality, which seems to have been what Carrol and Barrie were. The trouble is that having made the link between history, psycho-sexual development and writing fantasy for children, Wullschlager can't explain why fantasy has remained such a dominant mode in British fiction and the last chapter is confused. What makes sense for the five men (four and a half because Milne doesn't quite fit?) doesn't seem to make sense for later authors. Other books need to be written to explain this, and some of them have been written, looking at the impact of WW1 on writers like Lewis and Tolkien, for instance. But, all up, I enjoyed this and it gave me new information about Lear, at least, if not much about the other authors.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sassafras Lowrey

    I really enjoyed this book - I wanted it to do more than it did, and i wasn't always sure I followed/agreed with the author's theories/analysis of the lives of some of these authors, and some of them were total creepers, but I did enjoy learning about the ones who kept rooms filled with toys for their own amusement :) particularly Kenneth Grahame who lived a child-like life into adulthood

  10. 4 out of 5

    Christina

    Took me entirely too long to finish this. It was an interesting exploration of Victorian children's authors, but has the misfortune to have been written just prior to the release of Harry Potter. The author makes a lot of absolute statements in the introduction and conclusion about how no author has created a world that has so impacted the imagination in children's literature since the authors she writes of: Carroll, Lear, Barrie, Grahame and Milne. She also makes no mention of American children Took me entirely too long to finish this. It was an interesting exploration of Victorian children's authors, but has the misfortune to have been written just prior to the release of Harry Potter. The author makes a lot of absolute statements in the introduction and conclusion about how no author has created a world that has so impacted the imagination in children's literature since the authors she writes of: Carroll, Lear, Barrie, Grahame and Milne. She also makes no mention of American children's authors (L. Frank Baum comes to mind). It was a bit academic for my tastes as well, but I did enjoy the biographical aspects. Anyone who aspires to write a great children's novel inspired by a child he loves will think twice after reading this. If fame of the book didn't destroy the relationship (Carroll, Milne), it led to the tragically premature death of the child (Barrie, Grahame).

  11. 4 out of 5

    Aimee

    Loved this - really interesting insight into the lives of some of my favorite authors of my favorite books - very painful lives that translated into some of the world's best "escapist" literature. Curiouser and curiouser!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jamie

    This was a fascinating glimpse into the, surprising sad, lives of several famous victorian and edwardian authors. Most shocking to me was the devastating tragedies that riddled J.M. Barrie's adopted boys and A.A. Milne's esstrangment from his son Christopher Robin.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Dulcie

    3.5 A disturbing but interesting read.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Olivia

    Another intriguing read - but it had some factual errors and it wasn't as in-depth as other books on the same subject. USeful to put Barrie in context of his contemporaries, though.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Shawn Thrasher

    Both high-handed AND gossipy, a perfect combination.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Minna

    Some absolutely fascinating parts in here.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kirk Ashworth

    This book is helping to map out the complex culture of late Victorians and those ranking innocence too highly.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Julie

  19. 4 out of 5

    Stu

  20. 5 out of 5

    lyndsay ortiz

  21. 4 out of 5

    Elliot

  22. 4 out of 5

    Pat Padden

  23. 5 out of 5

    Stuart

  24. 4 out of 5

    Mpm

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jan

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jonny

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

  28. 5 out of 5

    Lex

  29. 5 out of 5

    Chuck Groenink

  30. 4 out of 5

    Naomi

    Fascinating and well researched look into the lives of five most loved children's authors.

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