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Alison Wonderland

A novel by Helen Smith

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Imaginative Yet Aimless

  • Aug 2, 2011
Alison Wonderland is something of an anomaly.

It has an imaginative, sometimes magical story, but one without a strong direction. It covers a lot of ground in very few pages. It has many interesting characters but none who really spoke to me in any significant way. It has sexuality without much sex. It has an intriguing name that has little to do with the story itself (or does it?).

Alison Wonderland is the story of Alison, whose last name is not Wonderland, though she'd like that. She works as a researcher for the investigative agency she originally hired to prove her ex-husband was not faithful, and her latest case it's getting a lot of attention, of all the wrong kind. Not that she really notices, as she's travelling with her best friend Taron on a drug-infused trip through England's pubs and nightclubs trying to find an abandoned baby. Not a particular baby...any baby that's been abandoned will do. Meanwhile Alison and Taron's friends are getting beaten up and abducted back in London.

Helen Smith has a great way with dialogue and characters and a knack for good, concise descriptions. I liked the interplay between Alison and Taron especially, and the descriptions of the way layers of darkness can fill an empty room. The poems from Jeff, Alison's hopeful and somehow tragic friend, to Alison are touching and well-crafted.

But there's an overall sense of sadness and distance from the story throughout, strange for something so quirky and original. The imagination and flights of fancy in Alison Wonderland seem at odds with its distant and directionless tone.

In the end, I enjoyed reading it, though I'd be hard pressed to say exactly why. Not quite my cup of tea, I guess.

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August 03, 2011
Sounds like an intriguing concept. I could see why it wasn't "quite [your] cup of tea" though. Nice review, Rich!
About the reviewer
Rich Stoehr ()
Ranked #78
I often hide behind a pithy Douglas Adams quote or maybe some song lyrics. I guess it makes sense that much of what I share is reviews of things I like (or don't).      People … more
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