Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is one of those books that every lover of fantasy and science fiction should read, if only for the echoes that continue to sound through both genres. There are other good reasons to read it, of course, like the puns, or the crazy rhymes, or the weirdness of Wonderland itself. The foregrounding of Wonderland as a place makes the book a good one to listen to, and the recent release of an audio version read by Scarlett Johansson makes this the perfect time to read the book if you haven’t already, or to listen to it again if you have—there is always something new to notice in the book. It only looks simple.
One of the first things you’ll have to do, if you’re coming to this book for the first time, is set aside all notions of plot that you may have acquired along the way. At the beginning, Alice is trying to get to a garden she has seen. After that, she simply moves from place to place, allowing Wonderland to show itself off. There are puns aplenty, strange poems, and odd people—most of them odder than they have ever managed to be in any other version. Lewis Carroll makes jabs at societal expectations, some specific to the Victorian era, some still recognizable. It is a series of vivid vignettes, and Alice allows the reader to see them.
Scarlett Johansson’s voice is a pleasure to listen to, and she keeps Alice’s monologues to herself from becoming monotonous. They sound like someone talking to herself and wondering. Not every creature gets a distinctive voice, but the majority of them do; the gryphon is particularly noteworthy. There is one minor flaw with the reading: Johansson does not make any attempt to sing the Mock-Turtle’s song or “The Lobster Quadrille,” turning them into a kind of chant instead. Carroll himself provided no music, but surely some could have been found?
Ultimately, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland remains its unique, strange self, and Johansson proves a strong narrator, letting readers into the land. This one is good for listening to while driving, exercising, and generally going about daily business. Enjoy the book for itself, and listen for the number of familiar quotations and references you will find.
Click the link to order Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland written by Lewis Carroll and read by Scarlett Johansson from Amazon. The book is available for free through Project Gutenberg or for sale in many versions on Amazon.