The Looking Glass House Book Review

Author: Vanessa Tait is a debut novelist of The Looking Glass House and the great-granddaughter of Alice Liddell, the little girl who is said to have inspired Lewis Carroll to write Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Rating: ***


I went into this book blind but I couldn’t wait to pick it up, mostly because of the beautiful cover which reminded me so much of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Now we’ve all heard the phrase: ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’ and, unfortunately, that is very true of this book. Although props to the person/s who designed this cover – it’s selling the book!

I gave this book 3 stars. It is fairly well written, there are a lot of really lovely sentiments and prettily written phrases, but a few lovely pieces of writing do not a good book make. Unfortunately what this book lacked was a bit of ‘oomph’, as my family would say. There was no driving force, which wasn’t irritating or enjoyable enough, to keep you gripped within the book, even with the promise that Tait’s heritage suggested.

The story revolves around the governess of the Liddell sisters – including Alice Liddell, the girl who inspired Lewis Carroll (or Charles Dodgson, as was his real-name, who also centres in the book) – but the story is written in 3rd person which means we know what happens to Mary, the governess, but we don’t really get to know her or feel for her. I don’t know why this choice of narration was chosen when the story never leaves Mary’s side, surely 1st person would have been better. I might have liked her more.
Mary is a whiny, slightly impoverished social climber looking after the Liddell girls and not appearing to do a very good job of it. The Liddells are a prestigious family in Oxford who entertain Queen Victoria on occasion. Alice Liddell, in reality, would later begin courting one of Victoria sons. Mary wants a husband and she has two courters in mind, one Mr Wilton – a fictional retail assistant, who is rather drole and religious – and Charles Dodgson – the stuttering, ‘friend’ of the Liddells who the Liddell parents seem to ridicule and dislike, yet let him off with their three daughters to take photographs of them and go on walks, boat-rides and picnics – needless to say the relationships are weak.

There are interesting settings within the story, you get a real sense of Oxford and the gossiping-city that it is, and also an understanding of the way of life as a governess, but there’s still none of that power that makes you want to read on to find out what happens, as nothing much does happen.

The characters aren’t that strong. I had sense that Tait wanted us to rely on what we thought we knew of each character to propel the story, but I could have done with some more sympathetic reasons to like the characters.

Moreover due the lack of grip within the story the building climax is neither climatic nor particularly interesting. We can all see it coming from page 200 and I ended up wondering why it hadn’t happened sooner. The Epilogue is interesting, when the narration changes to focus on Charles Dodgson, he was possibly my favourite character of the whole book but I still didn’t enjoy the company of his fictionalised being.

Overall, it was a book I’m glad to have read and I’m glad to own for its beauty but it lacked any real substance to say that I enjoyed it or would read it again. A shame.


  1. This cover really is amazing. Too bad the book didn't end up being as good as the cover suggested, though. :(

    1. Really disappointing :( But I'm still glad I read it and I do hope Vanessa writes something else, just maybe something better x

  2. I wanted to get this because the cover reminded me of The Night Circus too. Shame it didn't live up to expectations :/ x

    1. Still get it - it'll look gorgeous on your shelf regardless of your feelings for it - you never know, you might love it x

  3. It's a shame the book wasn't as good as it could have been. The cover is so gorgeous and Alice retellings can be pretty cool if done well. I'm half tempted to get the book only for the cover though XD.