eNotated Classics and offered a copy of The eNotated Alice in Wonderland to review. It's an electronic version of the story with parts highlighted. These direct you to notes that explain the text, offer context or give a theoretical viewpoint. As well as this, there are two short essays after the story that give more interpretation.
This review isn't going to be about the story of Alice in Wonderland, but rather my experience with the notes themselves and how this added to my reading. Believe it or not, this is the first time I've read an annotated version of a classic and on the whole I enjoyed it. The notes that I appreciated the most where the ones that gave background context about Carroll himself and the inspiration for the story. I knew Alice was a real girl, but I didn't know she kept rabbits as pets, actually had a cat called Dinah or that the Queen of Hearts was based on her rather overbearing mother (I hope the mother herself didn't find this out!).
I knew a fair bit about the Victorians before reading this, but added bits of context are always welcome. For example, I wasn't aware that families often renamed their servants, even going so far as to give a string of servants the same name so that they would only have to learn one name. Apparently, 'Mary Ann' was a popular name for a servant. Alongside these context notes, I liked the ones about Carroll's construction of the story and how this changed over time; the tea party wasn't in the original draft, meaning the Mad Hatter and March Hare were initially absent.
My feelings about the notes offering critical interpretation were more mixed. I was interested to see the theories but had I been reading the story for the first time, they would have stopped me coming up with my own ideas about what the story means. For that reason, I think versions like this are best suited to those already familiar with the story. Sometimes there were a lot of notes on each page and I didn't know which ones to select. I read this on an old kindle so I don't know if this would work on colour devices, but it might be nice to somehow differentiate the context notes from the theory ones, so the reader can select just the notes they are interested in. I also think the notes best suited to an American audience as there were a few explanations of British phrases that I personally didn't need the notes for; 'leave off' and 'box her own ears' were a few examples.
I do feel that I got more out of the text reading the notes alongside it. The two essays at the end were very interesting (I wish there had been more) and I feel I have more of an understanding of Carroll and why he wrote the story he did. The inclusion of many illustrations from early editions was a nice touch that made reading more pleasurable. On the whole, I'd recommend this to others, especially those already familiar with the story.
Source: From the publisher for review
First Published: 2012
Score: 4 out of 5