Monday, January 24, 2011

REVIEW: "Alison Wonderland" by Helen Smith

"My name's Alison Temple and I used to have this line when people asked me if I'm married. I'd say, 'I'm waiting for Mr Wonderland and when I find him I'll get married. Until then I'm staying single.' The kind of people who need to know whether or not you're married don't see the humor in a joke like that."

And so begins the tale of Alison Wonderland, a straightforward, amateur detective of sorts who's just trying to find her truth in life. In the meantime, she meanders around, making the best choices she can, and doing what she thinks is right. Alison has a downstairs neighbor who shows his love with poetry- between coming up with the next great invention (my favorite is the clock that makes time go slower or faster, depending upon what you want at the time), a job following and photographing unfaithful men, a crazy and possibly unstable friend, and, oh yeah, there's a man out there dead-set on finding out exactly what Alison knows, which is nothing at all, really. 

With witty, straightforward writing, and well-developed characters, Helen Smith has crafted an engaging tale that takes us into Alison's life and thoughts. A big part of the appeal of this book is the sheer enjoyment as we saunter along with Alison, who finds herself in the oddest of situations- on a hillside, watching a man in love with his shig, tracking down an "unfaithful" husband who is actually just trying to make ends meet, helping a friend escape from a club supposedly frequented by singing monks, finding a baby in a box at the edge of the sea... life is never boring in Wonderland.

Written in the present tense with UK spelling and phrasing- including single quote marks for dialogue- some readers may need a few chapters to adjust to the style. I quite enjoyed the style, and was quickly immersed in the story. The tale sort of ambles along, not really intent upon getting anywhere. At times, I found myself wondering if we were really even headed in the same direction as we started. It's really less of an progression towards an end of some sort, and more a study of the characters contained with the pages.There is some growth to be seen in some of the characters, and in Alison's character, in particular. Each bizarre turn spurs Alison on again and we discover more about who she is and what she is becoming through those turns of event. There are several different storylines going on in the story, and they don't all get tied up in neat little packages at the end, but, somehow, the ending is fitting and gives a sense of closure anyway.

Loosely connected, but utterly entertaining, this is a fun read all around.

4/5 stars

Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble


Maria said...

I've had this on my "need to check out list" for a while...urk! So many books to read, so little time!

Vicki said...

I loved this book. I don't usually enjoy literary fiction, but this just captivated me.

GraceKrispy said...

You'll to push it up, Maria! As Vicki says, it's captivating! It just draws you in.