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The Mystery of Lewis Carroll: Discovering the Whimsical, Thoughtful, and Sometimes Lonely Man Who Created "Alice in Wonderland"
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The Mystery of Lewis Carroll: Discovering the Whimsical, Thoughtful, and Sometimes Lonely Man Who Created "Alice in Wonderland"

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  401 ratings  ·  86 reviews
A new biography of Lewis Carroll, just in time for the release of Tim Burton’s all-star Alice in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll was brilliant, secretive and self contradictory. He reveled in double meanings and puzzles, in his fiction and his life. Jenny Woolf’s The Mystery of Lewis Carroll shines a new light on the creator of Alice In Wonderland and brings to life this f
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published February 2nd 2010 by St. Martin's Press (first published February 1st 2010)
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Feb 15, 2010 rated it liked it
This is not so much a biography of Carroll as it is a carefully researched rejection of much of the biographical lore that surrounds the man. By revealing just how little we can know about Carroll due to the lack of records or the distorted collection of materials left by his heirs, Woolf reveals not a child-man obsessed with little girls, but rather a grown up who struggled with his faith, his role as provider for his family, and the Victorian norms that surrounded his interactions with the opp ...more
Marianne Cadena
Aug 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
It started with a school assignment.
“Mom, can you take me to the library? I have to write a five page paper,” my daughter told me one evening.
“When is it due?” I asked, hoping the answer would not be “tomorrow”. This has been known to happen.
“Next Friday. We have to write about a British author,” she said.
“Oh, really? Who are you writing about?”
“Lewis Carroll,” she chirped, grinning like his famous cat.
Ah, the creator of Wonderland.
So we went galumphing down to the library and found “The
Richard Mills
Feb 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This book aims to give an unprejudiced portrayal of the "real" Lewis Carroll. On the whole I think it does this.

Woolf tries hard to put Carroll into the context of his own historical period. Life and attitudes were different then and I found myself wondering what Victorians would think of our society, and would no doubt find many aspects of it even more shocking than we find his nude photos of children. (These were few in number and were apparently more acceptable to people of his own period th
Mar 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Wow. If I ever became a famous figure, this woman can write my biography. They're usually hit-and-miss for me because they tend to paint a one-dimensional picture of the person written about (and really, how do you sum up an entire person--and make them real--in a book?). But Woolf was fabulous! She really explored all sides of him--curious, dull, charming, annoying, etc, etc. I loved it!
mariam ✿
May 14, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: informative
read this for some extra insight for an assignment :) This biography did give a great deal of insight into Dodgson's life as a whole- his family; upbringing; his life in the transition from Victorian Society to a more modern one, one he refused to adhere to as a rule; and his later life during and post-Oxford. He seemed overall like a normal kind of fellow who kept to himself, which in that time, bred rumor and lies.
Oct 29, 2014 rated it liked it
Biographer Jenny Woolf has taken on the difficult task of attempting to reconstruct the man who was Lewis Carroll from what little remains of his life documents (his personal diaries and other effects were heavily censored or "lost" by his family after his death), and for the most part she produces a fair and honest portrait of a still somewhat mysterious man, highly fussy and moralistic (especially in his later years) but also happy to flout Victorian middle-class convention.

Let's just get righ
Jan 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
Jenny Woolf interprets the life of Charles Dogson, known to the world as Lewis Carroll. She examines far flung letters and diaries and recently discovered bank account records. From these she pieces together his story, noting gaps and speculating on how and why these gaps exist.

She concludes that the innuendo that surrounds Carroll is not deserved. She presents him as a pious eccentric with wide ranging interests. He was a Renaissance man for his time with accomplishments in photography, mathema
Apr 22, 2018 rated it it was ok
It only took me about 4.5 years, but I finally finished! (I have a serious problem with officially abandoning books that don't hold my interest.)

This isn't a bad book per se, but it is incredibly dry. It also suffers from a problem that I call the "never ending chapter(s) of doom" - when an already dry and slightly boring chapter drones on for 30 or 40 pages with no good stopping points, making it 1) hard to find a good place to pause one's reading, and 2) even harder to start back up again beca
Mar 20, 2011 rated it liked it
If you know me, you are aware of my obsession with Alice in Wonderland. Knowing all of the tales and drama and rumor that surrounds Lewis Carroll/Charles Dodgson, I was excited to stumble on this gem, which claims to debunk all rumors and lay down the truth. Well, most of the "truth" sources have been destroyed in the 100 years, so that is a hard claim to uphold. However, I was intrigued by Woolf's idea to look into his financial records. A lot can be found knowing how a person keeps their recor ...more
Mar 30, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
I was under the belief that Lewis Carroll was not a pedophile, but a little pervy, and took a lot of drugs. Jenny Woolf did a great job validating one half of my beliefs and did nothing to answer the other.

Ms. Woolf spent an entire chapter defending her stance that Carroll did not have inappropriate intentions towards little girls and her defense holds up. However, unintentionally, in another chapter, she completely backs up my thoughts on Carroll being a little pervy, with all his 'lady friend
Charles Haddon
Jan 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I learned from this book that Lewis Carroll was very different from how he has been shown in the past, which is either as a pervert or a saint. He was neither. Also, I learned that you can't view a historical person from a modern point of view. Lewis Carroll was pretty wacky but he comes out of this book at least making sense
Jul 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Most literary biographies are pretty staid and have clunky prose but this was a pleasure to read. The biography is not organized in chronological order (although we do start with his early years before Oxford) but rather into categories, such as his work in photography, his friendships, his religious beliefs, etc. What is amazing is that Woolf discovered Dodgson's (Carroll's actual name) bank accounts that had been boxed up when the bank closed years ago, which add one more mystery that at prese ...more
Sarah  Loves Books and tea
This was an interesting biography of the Alice in Wonderland author but it was very dry in terms of the writing and I found myself skimming pages at times. Also as with many biographies of this nature the author is making educated guesses throughout due to original letters and documents being destroyed.

It was entertaining in some parts though and I always enjoy reading about the Victorian era.
Wistful Reader
Feb 24, 2019 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this non-linear biography which instead was organized by major aspects and questions of Dodgson’s life. The author pulled from a variety of sources and provided supporting evidence throughout.
I applaud Woolf for going against the flow. She has chosen to portray Carroll completely within the context of his time and place rather than continuing in the popular style of examining him through a Freudian/post-Freudian, postmodern lens. She asserts that the Alice books weren't written about Alice Liddell, though they were written for her, and that Carroll wasn't as particularly involved with the girl as later writers have imagined.

Using contemporaneous accounts, Woolf demonstrates that the
May 14, 2012 rated it liked it
Somehow, I made it all the way to adulthood without being aware that most people think that Lewis Carroll was a pervert. They might regard him as one of the most important children's writers of all time, but definitely as a pedophile and probably a substance abuser.

It is very important to note that this negative perception of Carroll did NOT begin during his lifetime, but after, and NOT within the context of his own Victorian environment, but in a post-Fruedian, post-Victorian one. Jennie Woolf
Jul 30, 2010 rated it really liked it
Biography about the author of Alice in Wonderland. A better book about this topic than my previously reviewed ALICE I HAVE BEEN by Melanie Benjamin , so, if you're looking for a book on this subject, I'd suggest this one. It is nonfiction, so beware, if you're not in the mood for that. But the author is very well-immersed in the subject and the entire thing's very well-researched. (It's obvious she's a journalist by trade.)
Feb 17, 2010 rated it really liked it
I learned a lot about Lewis Carroll, I also learned that unfounded rumors can get started by people that have no first hand knowledge of
someone and they still feel the need to judge. Aside from that, this book was well written and I believe throughly researched. A must read for Lewis Carroll fans.
Vanessa Hoyle
Feb 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating picture of Lewis carrol, really makes me wish I had met the man. The book is also very illuminating about victorian society. A must-read for those interested in Lewis carroll himself or his world.
Apr 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult, biography
I liked that this book is organized categorically rather than chronologically. It wasn't really anything I hadn't heard before (except that maybe it was Ina who was in love with Charles, rather than Charles being in love with Alice), but I enjoyed it nonetheless.
Apr 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book was recommended to me, and boy I am glad it was!

I would say that more than a biography about Lewis Carroll, its a detailed research that rejects a lot of the connotations that have been associated with Lewis Carroll's life. You all know what I mean! It not only talks about the man, but about the culture and influence that was current during the man's life, which is something that should always be considered in a biography.

This marvelous book also takes in consideration the recently di
Nov 14, 2018 rated it it was ok
This is an OK book. I knew nothing about Lewis Carroll before reading and it was informative. The writing style is somewhat tedious and there is repitition of information. If you want to learn about the life of the writer of Alice in Wonderland this is the book but I am sure other authors have approached the subject in a more entertaining manner. Lewis's life was somewhat depressing and very restricted and this makes for slow reading and that is not the fault of the writer, its what she had to w ...more
Dean Cummings
Aug 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Jenny Woolf does a superb job of revealing the magnificently intelligent, cagey, and sometimes puzzling nature of Charles Lutwidge Dawson, or as he's more famously known, Lewis Carroll.

I bought this book with high hopes as "Alice in Wonderland" is a story I've always loved, both in it's book and film versions. Woolf didn't disappoint, as she pulled back the curtain and showed me what was behind the making of this wonderful tale.

I enjoyed every part of this book.
Mar 23, 2019 rated it liked it
Goes back to the basics to reexamine Lewis Carroll, trying to experience him in his context, and others also in their time period. Broke new ground by finding and sifting through his bank account, which he opened while in his twenties and maintained until his death in 1898. Thought it looked at matters pretty sensibly and fairly, no points belabored but butressed and circled back to as needed. Recommended!
Feb 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I loved the Alice books as a child and felt sure that I would like the man who wrote them. But there is such a lot of varied stuff and so many interpretations of the books and of him, that I got confused. This book made sense to me that he was a really unusual person and also a man of his period who was gentle, kind and well remembered by the children who he knew in his lifetime. I felt he was the kind of person who could have written my favourite childhood books.
Brit McCarthy
Mar 23, 2020 rated it liked it
While starting off fascinating, with 300 pages to fill this book soon wandered into repetitive and boring territory. Meticulously researched, well argued and fair, this appears to be a well rounded and accurate (as accurate as possible) account of a man who was full of contradictions and seems to be thought of as strange in his own time as he is in ours. 2.5 stars, 3 at a stretch.
Aug 13, 2019 rated it liked it
I wanted more out of the mystery but there were some interesting parts. Worth a read as a first delve into this man's life but I definitely plan on seeking out other biographies for a better understanding of this man.
Feb 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Any fan of Lewis Carrol should read this!
Aug 05, 2019 rated it it was ok
I had to force myself to finish this book. Where was the editor for this one? The author repeated the same ideas so often the book could have easily been cut down to a few chapters.
Feb 20, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I'm really not sure what to think about Lewis Carroll. He was one weird guy.
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“Although Carroll is now something of an iconic figure for psychedelic drug users, there is only the tiniest shred of evidence that he ever took laudanum, morphine, cocaine, magic mushrooms or indeed that he sampled any mind-altering drugs at all.” 0 likes
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