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When you begin to read this book (together with its second part "Sylvie and Bruno Concluded"), you must always remember what Lewis Carroll states in the Preface: that the book was written putting together all sorts of bits of writing that the author had skteched and drafted here and there for a long time, trying to find a common thread. So it's an assorted bunch of funny, clever and often deep pages. Even so, you might miss one of the charms of "Alice's adventures in Wonderland": the spontaneity, the straightforwardness. This is very much the opposite situation: a book that was written slowly, painstakingly constructing the main body of the story.
So you can find here almost all dimensions of Carroll's thoughts: humorous nonsense and innumerable puns (including a word as original as "Jabberwocky" or "Boojum": "Phlizz"); logical and mathematical puzzles, including a simple and clever description of a Möbius strip; tender and lovely stories for children; lots of poetry... And three elements I haven't found neither in the Alice books nor in "The Hunting of the Snark": solemn religious meditations; the only real presence of death in a Carroll text (as far as I know, not being a Carroll scholar myself) when Sylvie watches a dead hare; and an adult romance.
All these aspects are intertwined in a precarious narrative line-- there are almost as many disgressions as there are chapters; but what might seem a flaw in the book can be its main charm. All in all, Carroll found here A METHOD FOR NONSENSE or, as he says, "a far clearer idea (...) of the meaning of the word 'chaos'".
This is certainly not the best book to begin to read Carroll, but it's a pity it's not even half as popular as the Alice books. It's really worth reading it: it's like delving deep into the goldmine of the brain and the heart of a genius.
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on January 5, 2001
The book IS inconsistent. Unlike the brilliant Alice books, there are places where what Carroll is trying to do just doesn't work. But this book is written on a GIGANTIC scale. Carroll tries to take the basis of Alice, and expand it into something of real profundity - something that covers an entire moral and ethical universe. And much of the time, he actually *succeeds* at such an impossible task. There are scenes that are hysterically funny, and scenes that will make you weep. The book is VERY touching, and gives a strong and unforgettable message on the totality, wonder and all-conquering nature of all-conquering love. Sylvie, the fairy-child, is Love Itself, embodied. Despite its spottiness, this book is very, very impressive, and you will want to read it more than once, just to re-experience the good stuff, which is very, very good.
"For I think it is Love. For I feel it is Love. For I'm sure it is nothing but Love!"
Indeed. And Amen.
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on January 21, 2000
At first this seems disappointing after Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. But after a while it grows on you. I don't bother to try and follow the story. I just open it at random and read bits of it. There's always an unusual and interesting idea, or some funny dialogue or else a totally off the wall dreamlike image. Also there are some great poems in it. It is admittedly a patchy book. I like Bruno- he's quite like Alice but that baby talk was popular in Victorian times and grates on you now. Lewis Carroll didn't succeed in blending these great elements into a book that's easy to read, and this is why it is less popular. But it is definitely worth getting if you want another glimpse into the mind that wrote Alice. You will find plenty of the same kind of stuff. Also I think Lewis Carroll was a really nice person as this book often cheers me up when I feel low. It is happy and positive.
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on June 12, 2002
There is *nothing* disappointing about Sylvie and Bruno. It is not anything like Alice.. it surpasses Alice in every way.
This book is filled with a goodness that just can't help itself... and while it can be silly at times, and crazy at others, in the end it brings me to tears, every time. It is noble and honest and the characters steal your heart...
Not all of life is suffering... and this book is about that. I would really encourage you to pick it up. The first few chapters are a little crazy as you get used to this half-reality half-fantasy style... but it pulls you in so quickly, and will really blow you away.
An absolutely wonderful book!
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VINE VOICEon November 5, 2006
After reading the Alice books, I never imagined Carroll could write a literary failure. Unfortunately, as the introduction of this book so clearly states, Sylvie and Bruno is a literary failure. Why? Perhaps it's too much of an adult book. Perhaps the confusion of the first few chapters throws off too many impatient readers. These possibilites are certainly plausible. But what a shame! The work itself contains so many instances of wonderment that I can't name them all. Like a true craftsman of storytelling, Carroll masterfully walks the line between dream-like fantasy and all-too-familiar reality, swiveling between these two opposing states of being whenever the urge strikes.

One would venture to guess that the narrator is afflicted with Alzheimer's disease. That is, until he actually brings back a tangible souvenir from the dreamworld in the form of a rare Indian flower bouquet, incapable of surviving a lengthy transport to merry old England. Upon participation in this scenario, the open-minded reader begins to question the composition of reality. Are dream worlds filled with magic out there eluding us? Can it be that our steps in the real world are never terribly far from landing on a little fairy? The ponderment of such superstition is indeed rare today, but perhaps it shouldn't be.

Yes, extraordinarily deep questions are raised in this strange book where "actors" do somersaults during dramatizations of Shakespeare and gardeners run around "watering" plants with watering-cans as barren as the Sahara Desert. As anyone can see, Carroll didn't seem to have any problems coming up with wild stuff to write. I particularly enjoyed the rumor of the crocodile walking on its forehead.

I think the one thing Carroll never gets enough credit for is his use of humor. Sylvie and Bruno is quite funny. I couldn't help laughing at Bruno's story of, "a Mouse and a Crocodile and a Man and a Goat and a Lion." And the Baron's Embassy chapter is comedy gold. Carroll was truly an enlightened individual. I wish we had more like him today.

Carroll was also quite Biblical, and that's evident in this book. While strongly promoting faith in the Bible, he heavily criticizes the practically (I think) defunct method of filling up every Sunday with forced, nonstop preaching, and the far from defunct method of promising financial wealth to people who give. He notes that England's ability to endure such tactics for a whole century while still believing in God is a credit to the goodness of the people there. Unfortunately, a century after the printing of this book, the belief isn't quite as strong as it used to be. Perhaps Carroll's criticisms had some validity.

Carroll had the gift of innovation that is so terribly difficult for most people, including myself, to grasp. What extraordinary value his works have! It's a shame Sylvie and Bruno has so much value and yet so little popular appeal. I just wish Carroll could have shortened the story and wrapped it up in one volume.

I give it four stars objectively, but I like it much, much better than many books I've given five stars too. Definitely one of my all-time favorites.

Oh, and I am pleased to note the following: Carroll writes in the book's introduction that he's very against a technique he calls "padding" - which was later perfected by producer Robert Lippert in the horribly long film Lost Continent.
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on March 26, 2016
I enjoy Lewis Carroll very much and do love this a book. It is fun and when the children are present it is very cute.
My only problem with the book is at time it is very boring when the children are not present. If you like philosophy and biblical teachings this maybe the book for you. I personally skip a lot of it because for me it becomes very tedious.
It is refreshing though to have a small break from the fantasy. In all honesty this book is not for everyone but give it a try you may like it.
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on March 2, 1999
This is a book I return to now and then, just to recapture that childlike wonder that Carroll masters so well. The contrast of the adorable fairy children and their beautiful little absudities, against the strangeness of the real world of Carroll's time and culture which seems alien to a modern reader, make for a surreal story that still manages to hit its simple theme on the head: love conquers all.
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on December 17, 1999
This book is terrific. The moves between Outland, Fairyland, and England are VERY confusing at first, but once you get the gist of the work it is a very enjoyable! The way Bruno talks is theonly very annoying part. His oos and other such shortenings (y'reince comes to mind) are very odd, but he is always followed by a correction by his sister Sylvie. All in all, this is an amazing book.
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on June 18, 2016
I did not enjoy this book very much.
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on January 5, 2015
Makes delightful reading
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