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The Dark Side of Alice in Wonderland (Paperback)

Military > Biographies P&S History > Social History

By Angela Youngman
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 192
Illustrations: 20 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526797155
Published: 30th March 2024


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Although the children's story Alice in Wonderland has been in print for over 150 years, the mysteries and rumours surrounding the story and its creator Lewis Carroll have continued to grow.

The Dark Side of Alice in Wonderland is the first time anyone has investigated the vast range of darker, more threatening aspects of this famous story and the way Alice has been transformed over the years.

This is the Alice of horror films, Halloween, murder and mystery, spectral ghosts, political satire, mental illnesses, weird feasts, Lolita, Tarot, pornography and steampunk. The Beatles based famous songs such as 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds' and 'I am the Walrus' on Alice in Wonderland, while she has even attracted the attention of world famous artists including Salvador Dali. Take a look at why the Japanese version of Lolita is so different to that of novelist Vladimir Nabokov - yet both are based on Alice. This is Alice in Wonderland as you have never seen her before: a dark, sometimes menacing, and threatening character.

Was Carroll all that he seemed? The stories of his child friends, nude photographs and sketches affect the way modern audiences look at the writer. Was he just a lonely academic, closet paedophile, brilliant puzzle maker or even Jack the Ripper?

For a book that began life as a simple children’s story, it has resulted in a vast array of dark concepts, ideas and mysteries. So step inside the world of Alice in Wonderland and discover a dark side you never knew existed!

A fascinating book. Highly recommend if you love Alice in Wonderland.

NetGalley, Heather Michael

An interesting and all-encompassing think piece on all of the dark edges of Lewis Carroll’s beloved Alice in Wonderland.

Youngman does an excellent job of presenting information but allowing the reader to draw their own conclusions about it, which feels particularly important when discussing the controversial figure that is Charles Dodgson.

NetGalley, Samantha Edelman

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Love love loved this book. I love Alice in wonderland find out the backstory and how it has evolved through the years was fascinating.

NetGalley, Ashleigh Ballard

The book does not aim to be any sort of scholarly psycho-social analysis of the stories and their cultural influence, but it clearly shows how a story composed as a gift for a child can be interpreted, reinterpreted, and be made to perform almost any role you might wish it to. Fascinating, and in places a little scary.

Read the full review here


The idea won’t appeal to everyone, but I found it an unusual and highly readable book. Of immediate interest, of course, is the chapter ‘Ripper Alice’. The idea that Lewis Carroll was Jack the Ripper was advanced by Richard Wallace in his book Jack the Ripper: Light-Hearted Friend (1996), and has since been relegated to the outlandish theories bin, although journalists almost always trot it out to show how daft Ripperologists’ ideas are!

Angela Youngman gives a short account of the Ripper’s crimes and briefly touches on other theories before dismantling the Lewis Carroll theory. There’s nothing here that even the newbie Ripperologist wouldn’t have known. But overall, Youngman has written an unusual and entertaining look at how Carroll’s children’s story has been twisted over the years into shapes that the author could never have imagined.

Ripperologist, July 2021, No. 169 - review by Paul Begg

I found this to be an interesting and fascinating look into the origins of the children’s book and the its wider influences and I must admit that I found the latter section of the book to be the most interesting.

NetGalley, WesternWay DomesticGoddess

The Dark Side of Alice in Wonderland is a great book for fans of the children's classic who want to dig further into its many different afterlives.

NetGalley, Juli Rahel

The author’s style is engaging and seductive. Although she discusses some vile concepts, she never goes full salacious. Instead, she prefers maintaining an element of decorum whilst describing the pestilent aspects of the life and times of the eponymous Lewis Carroll‘s child focused literature.

The Dark Side of Alice in Wonderland is sometimes nightmarish, other times profoundly moving. Youngman has produced a must read for all those faithful fanatics of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, a mathematics lecturer at Christ Church College, Oxford; also known as Lewis Carroll.

Read the full review here


Overall a really interesting read, especially for a fan of the book. It's important to be educated about the person behind a story, as we all know too well there can be some very dangerous and malignant ideas and activities being hidden by a well known name.


I highly recommend this book for anyone that is in love with Alice and wants to explore a darker, much darker side to it.

NetGalley, Atty P

I originally read this book as a child and must admit as a kid I just saw it as a good story, I didn’t realise the connotations of some of the things written or the reasons where they came from. If you look at some of the chapter titles we have, involve crime, drugs, horror, the occult, pornography to name a few. Now this one of those books where you read it and make up your own mind about it and the conclusion you come to. Now my personal opinion is that when the book was written you’re looking at 1865, a Victorian time when lots of books and stories were written and combined with an atmosphere of hedonism, experimenting with drugs and medication around that time in certain literary circles. My thoughts are that there probably was some ulterior meaning to some of the story, but you would have to come to your own conclusion when reading this book. The book is well written and I loved the cover art on the book. I would recommend this book to others, but I think some people might just like to stay ignorant and stick to knowing this tale as they they grew up with.

5 stars

Read the full review here

UK Historian

If you like reading into the backgrounds of authors and the reason/the inspirations for their work, I do think that you’ll really enjoy this. It’s definitely a well researched piece of non-fiction work, and I’m glad that I went out of my comfort zone to read it!

NetGalley, Charley Henly

I found this a well researched and interesting study that has increased my knowledge of and appreciation of the Alice in Wonderland stories.

NetGalley, Vivienne O'Regan

I found the explanations of the different interpretations very interesting. If you like watching anime and reading manga, you might have wondered why there is an Alice adaptation in almost every series. Thanks to the book, I now know why.

I recommend it to anyone who simply loves the story, wants to understand the cult to it or learn about its dark background.

NetGalley, Raphaela Hußmann

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

In her book The Dark Side of Alice in Wonderland, Angela Youngman uses her skill as a reporter to explore what I mentioned previously. We are then given ways on how these have influenced hobbies (Murder mystery Alice); movies (Horror Alice); art (surreal Alice); politics (Bizarre Alice); alternative lifestyles (X-rated and Banned Alice, Drug Alice, Occult Alice); and ways of thinking (Mad Alice: psychiatry, specifically Freudian). The early chapters gave me the backstory that I lacked, laying the foundation for what was to follow.
A favorite chapter of mine is titled Lolita Alice (chapter five) where the “cultural collision between East and West regarding the “Alice concept” is unfolded. The Japanese, for example, have embraced Alice in Wonderland, seeing elements in common with their legends and myths. Alice is sweet, and innocent; the shojo (little woman) between the ages of seven and eighteen. The term “Lolita” is used to denote a delicate and doll-like way of acting and dressing. The image of Alice/shojo Lolita can be seen in Manga, Anime, fashion (Sweet Lolita, Gothic Lolita, Classic Lolita), and culture. The term “Lolita” is used to denote delicacy and a doll—like way of dressing and acting. Western society is very much the opposite. As an “Alice” novice, this was all very engaging and enlightening.
I recommend this book for anyone who wants to explore The Dark Side of Alice in Wonderland.

NetGalley, Ekaterina Pham

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I absolutely adore Alice in Wonderland and had a rough idea that the background and themes of the novel were darker than face value. I didn't realise quite how dark they really were. This book handles sensitive subjects in a frank yet professional manner which leaves the reader feeling fascinated by the context of the novel and also the various interpretations. Between dinner parties full of weird and wonderful things, film adaptations, theories on potential abuse and also the supernatural reading of Alice, this book really does explore everything.

NetGalley, Jane Meredith

The Dark Side of Alice in Wonderland by Angela Youngman is a well-researched and clearly presented account of, mostly, the making and responses to the stories as well as how the imagery has been (mis)appropriated over the years.

NetGalley, Jack Messer

The author did a really good job at guiding us down the rabbit hole and showing us the dark side of one of our beloved childhood stories. How far does the rabbit hole go? You definitely have to give this book a read to find out :)

NetGalley, Dr. B

Whatever your feelings on Lewis Carroll, you can’t deny that the books he wrote about Alice are some of the most influential in all of literature. From film to music to fashion and everything in between, Alice in wonderland is everywhere. Youngman goes into so many different aspects of the character of Alice as well as the author Charles Dodgson aka Carroll. If you didn’t know about the rumors and gossip around him before this book, you absolutely won’t be able to look at these books or movies etc the same. This book feels like it’s for the most avid fan as well as newbies or rookies and there is so much information. Some influences may even surprise readers as well. Very interesting read for sure.

NetGalley, Joanna Pentikis

I have always been really interested in Alice in Wonderland. As a kid I loved the whimsical nature of Wonderland and the idea of a girl meant to be in such a unique and interesting place. As I grew up i started to see the darker side of Wonderland but I was still absolutely fascinated by it. This book felt like the culmination of those two things.
I will say I knew a lot of the information in this book but that has more to do with my obsession and not Youngman's lack of research. I was still fascinated to find out about some of the darker things that lead up to the creation of this well beloved story.

NetGalley, Felicia Harris

Angela Youngman has done a fascinating job of researching the author, the book itself and all the theories that go hand in hand with Alice in Wonderland.

The author himself, Lewis Carroll/Charles Dodgson is enigma to this day.

I am amazed how this book has touched so many aspects of life and continues to do so.

The Dark Side of Alice in Wonderland is definitely worth a read and will stay with me for a very long time to come.

NetGalley, Judy Odom

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Youngman has a wonderful capacity to draw her readers into their own speculations about the truth or otherwise of interpretations of Lewis Carroll’s behaviour and meanings in the work. Alice in Wonderland has been at the core of a wide range of works by other writers, events organisers, film producers and directors, artists and commentators and Youngman describes and analyses these speculations and artistic interpretations. Her tools are powerful: accessible writing, open ended conjecture and development of alternative understandings, and well organised material. The dark side is certainly exposed, but even at its darkest, another possibility is raised. And then, one is dashed. For example, is the letter Carroll writes to the mother of children that he wants to photograph unchaperoned, from a bully or someone who is genuinely hurt? Should the context of Victorian photography that Youngman raises, be considered? Certainly, in today’s more knowing environment the letter is at the very least raises questions.

Youngman shows the reader who sees an innocent Alice in Wonderland, and an imaginative author who has provided the world with a world of imagery, humour, understandings of the variety of ways in which a child might see herself, that there is another side, and another, and yet another. Her capacity to do this is impressive, leaving this reader with the feeling that Alice in Wonderland and its author, could indeed, be both wonderful and terrible. But rather than think of my caterpillar smoking drugs in his hookah, I shall maintain a belief in his innocence. Youngman has been able to leave me with my Alice in Wonderland intact at the same time as drawing me in to a remarkable analysis of the book, the author and others’ interpretations.

NetGalley, Robin Joyce

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson was an Oxford cleric and mathematician. His hobby was taking photographs. He took thousands. Some were of scantily-clad young women, many were of children, often completely naked, but always with the parents' consent. In mid-Victorian England middle-class children were still completely innocent. Since his death he has been vilified and numerous accusations have been made. In 1996 the author Richard Wallace even tried to prove Dodgson was Jack the Ripper!
Dodgson was, in fact, Lewis Carroll, who produced some of the most imaginative children's fiction ever, including the Alice novels.
A fascinating book. The author delves deep, recounting many ways in which Alice, like her creator has been abused in recent years: manga, anime and hardcore porn, but the innocence of the original books remains poignant and perfect.

NetGalley, Robin Price

I found this a fascinating read, and recommend it to fans of Alice in Wonderland, as well as those who are interested in pop culture.

NetGalley, Ana Marsh

I’ve always been fascinated by Alice in Wonderland since I was a child and still up to this day I enjoy reading her nonsensical adventures. So reading about the author Charles Dodgson’s (aka Lewis Carroll) life was incredibly interesting.

Was he really a child abuser? To what extent were his obsessive interactions with little girls innocent? Was he involved with child pornography?
The book goes so far as to explore the possibility of him being the infamous Jack the Ripper! After exploring Dodgson’s life it pulls you into the darker aspects of Alice and the way she has become an icon for so many subjects such as horror movies, pornography and Japanese mangas.
I had no idea Alice was based on a real-life person, a little girl called Alice Liddell. Reading about the author’s relationship with the Liddell family in general during the Victorian era were at the same time fascinating and shocking!
There a snippets of his letters to them and to other mothers asking for permission to photograph their little girls....naked! And by little girl he intended 11 to 17 year olds! Very disturbing stuff!
This was incredibly interesting and gave me a huge insight on Victorian customs and habits!

NetGalley, Angie Tevere

I absolutely LOVED the insight this gave into such a classic tale as Alice In Wonderland is!! The style of writing was easy to read and it was clearly well researched. Definitely recommend.

NetGalley, Francesca Chiru

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This book I really enjoyed reading. The details it had throught out the story was very interesting. There were so many things of Lewis Carrol past that I had never known or have ever heard. So after reading this it was great to get inside his life and see his past life and a bit of his life. I thought it was and again excuse my writing here I need work on my vacab skills but I thought I rather interesting how different the times are and how people thought compared to times now. It brings up a lot of questions and some answers. I also was wonderfully surprised about all the different styles and stories or even plays for that matter that had become from this story it self or had blossomed from it. Even the style it self was a big trend and still is to this day. I wanted to highlight some of the information in this book because I wanted to go find those books, videos, plays or tarot cards but I only had this copy for so long. I was very lucky to have been able to read it before its release. I can't beileve the details of the past relationship with him and alice and how unfortunately we will never know the full truth of what happened. He did such great thinga though through his time while reading this book that I never knew and did things I also did not know. I also love how the author touches on how others try to take many different plays on the story and interpret it into what they thought it was trying to say or into something of its own.. I highly recommend this book if you are a lover of all things Alice and want to learn the back story or more about who Lewis Carrol was. It gives such great detail and who was in and out of his life. It also gives so much detail of the different style of alice today. So for me I definitely would recommend this to all my alice friends because this is right up your ally. Definitely give this book a read!

NetGalley, Tara Woolard

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This was a crazy read, I really didn't know much about the author of Alice in Wonderland and this book really makes you think. It was a well done book and I was engaged from beginning to end.

NetGalley, Kay McLeer

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is 100 % a very unique read. I do not know what i think about Lewis Carrol or Alice in Wonderland anymore, it's the kind of thought-provoking read that will have you questioning it and thinking about it for weeks to come. But it's also one of those reads that could come across as many different things, and many different opinions, depending on the person reading it.
Although I did thoroughly enjoy this book, I don't remember much of Alice in Wonderland, just what I read as a child and the Disney animation. I will be rereading it though, just to get a feel of it again and see if i can then make my mind up on Lewis Carroll, As i can see two points of view. Innocent and Guilty!
I could not put this one down and read it in a full sitting, (more or less) even though it was repetitive at the beginning of every chapter, and a bit twisted at times, it was a very powerful story, that shocked me at every chapter!
I recommend this to anyone who would like to know a bit more about the following of Alice in Wonderland, if you have the stomach for it, as it does contain a lot of triggers.
But also do not recommend it to any super Alice fans, if you don't want your feelings to change toward the book, because this read will definitely make you think!

NetGalley, Natalia Clark

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is a very detailed study of the aspects of Alice in Wonderland that are negative. There are a lot of great quotes and references.

NetGalley, Amanda Karsh

Exceptionally well researched, this novel serves as a good introduction into the world of Alice/Carroll, along with the incredibly varied art forms where Alice features. There are many facts and interesting elements about the world of Alice uncovered by the author. Anime Alice? Yes, she exists. Murder mystery Alice? Ditto. Erotica and even pornographic Alice? Oh, yes those forms also exist.

NetGalley, Maria Flaherty

I love Alice in wonderland so much. I have read a lot of books about it, but i have to say this one is one of my favorites. It was the right kind of dark for my dark mind. This was really amazing.

NetGalley, Sanne vdv

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I loved the cover and title of this book. Youngman offers quite a complete and well-written discussion of the mind, life and habits of Charles Dodgson/Lewis Carroll and the meaning of his creative constructions, Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. I did not know that Alice in Wonderland was self-published! While the beginning of the book imparts information that can be had (with music, experts and visuals) on YouTube, the vast middle section offers a rather thorough breakdown of every conceivable manner that Alice in Wonderland has impacted culture, how that evidence is displayed, what it means, and how it might all have been premeditated. (Shiver. Let's hope not.) These offerings are categorized into the departments one might expect--fetishism, occult significance and impact, psychological connotations, ad infinitum. One cannot help but conclude that no young genius could have conscientiously imbued his narrative with so many symbols and meanings on purpose. I personally found the political tie-ins convincing. How can anyone not be subconsciously impacted what people are arguing about, night and day? The argument is strong (and convincing) for politics to have influenced the illustrator, Sir John Tenniel, who Dodgson himself sought out and paid to do the artwork. Tenniel was also a political cartoonist. By the end, this wonderful book grows legs and walks. While I am not expert on the many books written to explore the hall of mirrors that was the psyche of Charles Dodgson, The Dark Side of Alice in Wonderland struck me as a very good jumping off point--articulate and organized, something one might value as a reference book at home on a shelf, which one might want to consult in order to argue a point.

NetGalley, Julia Simpson-Urrutia

Any die-hard Alice superfan will love the new perspectives that this book presents!

NetGalley, Samantha K

As an Alice in Wonderland aficionado, I was extremely excited to read this book. I knew some sparse details about Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll, but was excited to learn more about the mysterious writer of my favorite tale. Not only did this book discuss some of the gossip that has followed Dodgson around for years (questions ranging from, did he have an unhealthy relationship with young girls? to could he possibly have been Jack the Ripper?), it also delved into the different ways that the story of Alice in Wonderland has influenced society - through books, film, celebrations, style and couture, pornography, food, video games, etc etc. This book was interesting... Overall, it was a fun quick little read.

NetGalley, Danielle Pecherski

Fascinating, I learned so many things that I didn’t know I didn’t know! There is so much delving to do on this subject and it is absolutely fascinating, just as you think that all subject matter has been exhausted then the author opens yet more doors to your mind. Despite reading fairly extensively about this era I hadn’t realised quite the double standards in Victorian ideas of what was proper in terms of children and sexuality particularly, parts this book describes are more than shocking to our modern sensibilities. I also hadn’t realised that Lewis Carroll had been suggested as a potential identity for Jack the Ripper and I enjoyed the arguments for and against discussed in the book in a very balanced and non biased way. I also thoroughly enjoyed the analysis of psychological conditions both suggested by the characters in the books and in Lewis Carroll himself. Altogether a very thorough and very satisfying read.

NetGalley, Helen Frost

Alice in Wonderland has long been a beloved children's book, but there is a side to the story that most didn't know. After reading this book, I was blown away with the amount of information that was presented! Holy moly! I had no clue that Alice was based on a real person, or that she distanced herself from the author.

The different nuances that are presented in this book will have you rethinking the way you look at this classic children's story, and make you want to read it again - to see if you can pick up on anything that was mentioned in this book! I know that I am going to be reading it a bit deeper than I did before.

Informative and engaging! This book was everything I hoped it would be and more!

NetGalley, Rebecca Hill

I recommend this book for anyone who wants to explore The Dark Side of Alice in Wonderland.

NetGalley, Patricia Balster

I love anything related to Alice in Wonderland, so I was really excited to receive an ARC for this ebook. The Dark Side of Alice in Wonderland was definitely an interesting read. While the book is chock-full of information about Lewis Carroll/Charles Lutwidge Dodgson and the real Alice (the author did amazing research), some of the information definitely gave me pause. The sections about Carroll’s friendship with Alice and other children were a bit unsettling. He had quite a fascination with young children.

Alice in pop culture has always fascinated me, so I was happy to see that was discussed in several chapters. I especially enjoyed The Ripper Alice and Murder Mystery Alice chapters. I love all things Alice and mystery!

NetGalley, Elissa Kane

The Dark Side of Alice in Wonderland is a deep dive into the many reimaginings of the classic children’s tale, while also taking a look at the mysterious Lewis Carol and the real main behind the famous pseudonym.

The chapters that focused more on Charles Dodgson life we’re definitely the more compelling, as these were backed up with excerpts from his own diaries and people related to his life. It was a fascinating look into one of the most famous writer’s of history, whom we really don’t know much about.

NetGalley, Shauna O Halloran

I found it to be very interesting and I truly learned a lot. I have never read Alice in Wonderland but, it is on my list now.

NetGalley, Angie Blocker

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Wow, down the rabbit hole you go, in this epic look into everything Alice in Wonderland. It’s origins, the writer, how it has inspired whole cultures, restaurants, manga, retellings, museums exhibits, porn, murder, bannings, and so much more it’s crazy!

I have learned so much, and quite honestly this may be the best non fiction book I have come across in my adult life!

NetGalley, Kristen Illigasch

There was so much information that I have never heard before, even as someone best friends with a girl who’s hyper fixation is Alice in wonderland. I will definitely be recommending this to my group of friends and anyone that will listen.

NetGalley, Cameron Bingham

It introduces lots of interesting information about Carroll's life, movies, books, video games, music and all sorts of creation inspired by Alice in Wonderland.

NetGalley, Ghada Ahmed

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This a fascinating and well-written book that comprehensively covers the whole "Alice" phenomenon from what influenced its writing to it's incorporation into the Steampunk phenomenon of today and just about every facet of it in between.

NetGalley, Dave Blendell

"Was the enigmatic Lewis Carroll full of secrets and surprises, or was he just an innocent writer?"

I'll start by saying that this is a very thorough and well researched book. It starts by looking at the history of Lewis Carroll/Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, providing us with evidence and suggestions around the mysteries of his life - questionable relationships with children and young women being one main theme.

The book then goes through a wide range of chapters showing how Alice has become such a phenomenon for things like horror films, Lolita, pornography and steampunk. I especially liked reading about all the pop culture references that you may be aware of but don't even realise how directly related they are to Alice (such as Marilyn Mason's Eat Me, Drink Me, references in The Matrix and more recently - Black Mirror's 'Bandersnatch').

The facts about the theatre show in The Vaults in London were super interesting to read through, having been to the show myself some years ago. (I wish I'd gone twice now!) Also the parts linking to drugs and mental health. This book has left me with an awful lot to think about and I won't think of Alice in Wonderland in the same way as I used to! A must read for any Alice In Wonderland fans and fanatics!

NetGalley, Eleanor England

About Angela Youngman

Angela Youngman is a professional journalist and author living in Norfolk. Her other books include The Dark Side of Alice in WonderlandNorfolk: A Dog Walkers GuideKiddiwalks Norfolk, and Green Roofs. She is a member of the International Travel Writers Alliance and Garden Media Guild, writing for a wide range of travel, tourism, transport, culture magazines and websites. Angela enjoys finding the unexpected and unusual stories relating to destinations such as London.

Born on this day - Lewis Carroll

27th January 1832

Created Alice in Wonderland and Alice through the Looking Glass.

Lewis Carroll publishes "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland"

2nd August 1865

Lewis Carroll publishes "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland"

"Alice in Wonderland" by Lewis Carroll is published in America

26th November 1865

"Alice in Wonderland" by Lewis Carroll is published in America

Died on this day - Lewis Carroll

14th January 1898

Created Alice in Wonderland and Alice through the Looking Glass.

View all events View all anniversaries

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