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
I would like to know if there are any other classics for which they have provided this. Sound like a great tool...hopefully more books coming. Thanks.ReplyDelete
Annette, if you click on the link in the first paragraph it takes you to their website. There are quite a few titles available already and I think they are working on more :)Delete
I was excited to read this post! I had read about an annotated version of Pride and Prejudice at Jillian's blog, A Room of My Own, and was very curious about it. She sent me a link to it that I will include here at the bottom of my comment. They are beautiful and I know you have read P & P. I think you're exactly right about how it is great for a reread instead of the first time reading a book. I would appreciate the same background information, more than the critique. I have for the first time been trying to read on my daughter's Simple Nook and I'm not sure how I feel about it, but wondered the same thing, if it would be better in color on a larger screen? Thank you for this review :-)ReplyDelete
Those Austen editions look lovely, the kind of thing I would invest in for a favourite book so thanks for linking me :)Delete
I have an older kindle and I find it very good for 'normal' reading but in this case I would have liked a larger/colour screen - not the publishers fault of course!
I am glad to read this review or rather your thoughts and experience with the reading of the annotated book itself. It has given me an insight into what the whole idea of annotated reading is about, as eNotated Classics also approached me to read and review a Classics of my choice and I seleccted Tess of The D'Ubervilles. I am yet to read it though. I dare say reading about the background and other references of the novel will be an eye opener and a great learning process for me. Thank you for sharing your wonderful experience.ReplyDelete
I was thinking of Tess but decided on Alice in the end as I do know the story so well. I hope you enjoy your experience of reading it as much as I did and I'm looking forward to your review in the future :)Delete
I agree - it's better to go into a story blind the first time. Unless you are reading The Crying of Lot 49, of course....but really that's another post altogether.ReplyDelete
I'm glad you enjoyed the book. I just saw an interesting interpretation of Alice on the tv show Warehouse 13. She lives in the looking glass and she's a rather vengeful little thing in this version.
I would also never try Ulysses blind, if I ever read that I would need plenty of annotations! Alice does change as the book goes on and she is quite rude in the end but the wonderland creatures are consistently horrible to her - the interpretation you mention sounds interesting.Delete
I am a bit curious about enotated classics, it sounds like a good idea but like you I suspect they work best on the second reading. On a similar theme my other half showed me an interesting digital version of Shakespeare with animation of the scenes and text running down the margin. It also contained great notes perfect for younger readers of Shakespeare sorry I have forgotten exactly what it was called. I am now quite curious about all the value adding that digital tools offer to classic texts.ReplyDelete
Speaking of Alice there is a novel that came out a couple of years ago that I always meant to read and you have reminded me of it I think it was called Alice I have been, it was a fictionalised account of Alice Liddel. I think I will look for that at the library. Loved Alice in Wonderland last time I read it was when I read it with my daughter, years ago now.
I must second the recommendation for Melanie Benjamin's Alice I Have Been -- delightful, heartbreaking novel -- if you're a Carroll fan you might not like that Benjamin is v sympathetic to the Liddels (or at least, Alice) but I was just completely taken by it.Delete
Arabella, love the sound of those Shakespeare editions - especially the animations. I can read Shakespeare by myself but always appreciate a bit of extra help! :PDelete
Alice I Have Been has been on my wishlist for a while but unfortunately my library system doesn't carry a copy. I will have to invest in it if you both liked it!
I have never read an anotated classic but have been curious about them. Your review was very helpful and I feel like I could really benefit from an anotated book. I like that you gained so much back background from reading this one! Awesome! :)ReplyDelete
The background knowledge was definitely the best part and it was good to learn it alongside reading the story.Delete
I actually read an annotated version of this years ago and loved it -- but I'm not sure I could stand an e-version annotated -- how do you jump around without losing your place?!ReplyDelete
I was a bit apprehensive too but it was actually very easy to work. If I was reading a particular page and clicked on a highlight it took me to the note. All I had to do then was press 'back' and I was back in the very same spot in the story. Much easier than I had anticipated!Delete
I haven't read Alice in so long but a friend bought me a beautiful illustrated one (I forget the artist but it's the modern Penguin one) and I realy need to find time to read it.ReplyDelete
This is so cool, what a great way to do that. I agree with you on only readers familiar with a story reading this kind of notation. Personal experience from school has almost ruined some books for me as we were forced to immediately interpret everything rather than just read and take it in.ReplyDelete
Definitely sounds like there's a lot to learn about the story and the inspiration behind it. I didn't know that people would rename their servants - that seems very degrading.ReplyDelete