Alice in Sunderland by Bryan Talbot

alice1Alice In Sunderland: An Entertainment by Bryan Talbot
319 pages

I had a bit of a back and forth relationship with Bryan Talbot’s Alice in Sunderland, but in the end I realized just how amazing of a tome this was. Talbot takes us to the almost mythical town of Sunderland, a town that inspired Lewis Carroll both directly and indirectly in his writing. The genius behind the book is the numerous ties he makes to other historical events, classic folklore, and the culture of a town that inspired not only Alice in Wonderland but cultures all around the world. And he makes all of those ties to one little town in England.

Alice in Sunderland opens with a white rabbit rushing past a man who is headed to the Sunderland Theater. Once he gets there, he takes his seat and enjoys the story that we are told. At the heart of the story is the tale of Lewis Carroll and his inspiration for Alice in Wonderland, the young Alice Lidell. But various other stories and histories are weaved throughout their tale, always leaving them as the central connection. I’m not even going to begin to get into all of the different histories that are told. You’ll have to read for yourself to learn of them.

Here is where my problem lied with the book at times. And it’s really a personal issue, not a fault of Bryan Talbot. I’ve never been a history buff. I’m not ashamed to admit that. There are certain cultures who’s history I love and certain events that I love to read about, but overall, I have a hard time reading history. I got straight D’s all throughout high school in history. It just wasn’t my strong point. So I would be lying if I said I was always engaged in this story. There were times when my mind would wander while reading and times when I would just get lost. But I have to say that if all history books were written in this highly entertaining format, I would’ve done much better in high school history!


The format of this book is nothing short of amazing. It’s a graphic novel with so much work put into it that I can’t fathom how long it must have taken Mr. Talbot to write it. The book is rich in detail with it’s pages full of collage, memorabilia, and of course, his amazing art work. This book is truly a piece of art and I’m quite sad that I have to return it to the library. I’ve always loved Alice’s adventures in wonderland and the backstory that Talbot shares of those adventures is fantastic!

I’m actually happy with the time I spent reading this graphic novel. I’ve never taken a whole week to read a graphic novel before, but this one is best read over time I think. That’s the way to truly appreciate it. There’s so much to absorb and appreciate in this book. If you’ve ever been curious about Lewis Carroll’s life, the surroundings that inspired him and the people that inspired him, then this is a wonderful way to learn of the man and the city.

Other Views and Opinions:
Nothing of Importance
Things Mean A Lot

Did I miss your review? Let me know and I’ll add it to this post!


9 Responses

  1. Definitely nothing to be ashamed of! You know, even though I’ve always enjoyed reading about history, my history classes in high school were torture. I had teachers who had a talent for making even WW2 dry. And the text books…ugh. But then in university I took a bunch of history courses and I loved them! The teachers were great, and we got to read REAL books. That made all the difference.

    Anyway, I’m very glad you did enjoy the book in the end! And I agree that it’s a good idea to read it slowly. You need to see if the library has The Tale of One Bad Rat. I’m sure you’ll love that one even more. And I heard that he has a new steampunkish graphic novel coming out later this year! Exciting.

  2. You know, I don’t think I possibly could have read that book in a week! It took me almost 6 weeks, I think. (Luckily I was able to renew it!) Like you said, it’s just full of sooooo much information. I remember being in total awe, thinking that it really should have taken him an entire lifetime to put together that book…from all the research to all the writing to all the truly incredible artwork. I really loved all the history myself, though I’d be the first to admit that I retained very little of it. 😦 Anyway, I’m glad that in the end, you found it worth your time!

  3. This was a really good book! Mind you, I am so far behind in reviews it will be at least a week before I get around to reviewing it, but in any case! I really liked this book. How strange that it was timed that both of us were reading it at the same time!

  4. Looks an absolutely cracking book Chris, I must take a look at his stuff.

  5. That does look fun!

  6. I have a hard time wrapping my head around history, too. This book looks cool, though.

  7. This is such a cool book, but my mind is wandering too. Not because I don’t enjoy the historical references but because I’m a bit too geeky – if I don’t know what the narrator is talking about I set the book aside and wiki-search until I’m comfortable with the subject. So, yeah this book could take me years to fully enjoy 🙂

  8. I appreciate your honesty and am glad that you enjoyed it despite your lack of love for history. I enjoy history, so it is probably safe to say that I would enjoy those aspects AND all the parts that you liked about this. Great review Chris, I’ve been wanting to get this since I first read about it online on one of our book friend’s sites. It looks amazing, and I am a real fan of the Alice in Wonderland story structure.

  9. I have been wanting a copy of this since it first came out and was holding out to see if it was going to be released in paperback. I don’t think it has but your review has reminded me to hunt it down. I love re-tellings and the artwork for this looks fantastic. I am not a big fan of history, but it looks good enough to keep my attention.

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