Alison Wonderland

It's a rare occasion when I pick a book to read based on cover or title alone, but I was definitely first drawn to Helen Smith's novel for it's clever title - Alison Wonderland - and it was these opening lines that really made me want to read it:

"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."
So begins the story, and the off-beat amusement continues through the entie novel.
 Alison Temple is a detective who works under the name Alison Wonderland - giving this quirky novel its charming name. Far from a traditional mystery, the story is almost more a comedy of errors and coincidences, with a splash of magical realism mixed it. A wonderful cast of fresh, unique and expertly drawn characters drive the slightly disjointed plot and Helen Smith's humorous descriptions - painting the most ordinary of situations in a creative light - provide a great flare of color to the text.

I probably would have enjoyed this book more if Alison's character had been a little less rough around the edges. With careless drug use and somewhat ambivalent feelings for Jeff, the neighbor who is in love with her; I had a hard time relating to her as the protagonist. However, I was drawn into her story and found myself caring a lot about the secondary characters in the book.

Even though I wasn't blown away by this novel, I was really impressed with Helen Smith's writing. She artfully captures simplicity in complex words and has a remarkable talent for humorous observation. Although Alison Wonderland was not my favorite, I will likely read more of Smith's work.
I've already had some interesting discussion with Helen Smith about this book.  I won't disclose the question I asked - as it spoils a key plot point in the book - but her reply was really interesting.  Even though, at first, I wanted something in the book to be different, I came to see that Ms. Smith really did choose the better outcome. 

Have you ever read a book and wanted something in the plot to be different?  On second look, did you ever decide that the author's way really was better than yours?

And stay tuned this week for my interview with Helen Smith!

3 Response to "Alison Wonderland"

  1. allisonmariecat says:
    October 20, 2010 at 9:00 AM

    Allison Wonderland was what the kids called me in elementary school :)

    I usually go with the flow of what an author decides to do, plot-wise. But one that jumps to mind is Man Walks Into A Room by Nicole Krauss...the plot took turns I just wasn't willing to take!

  2. Margaret Duarte says:
    October 20, 2010 at 12:10 PM

    I've learned to expect different things from literary fiction than from commercial fiction. With literary, I know not to expect an action-packed plot. I take the time to savor each word and the unique way in which the author describes character and scene. I currently reading John Steinbeck's East of Eden. He starts with a chapter describing the Salinas Valley. "The Salinas Valley is in Northern California." No characters, no dialogue, no action, unless ones counts the rise and fall of the Salinas River as action. Then take Allison Brennan's Original Sin. It starts off running. "No one could hear Moira's piercing screams; they were in her head, as trapped as she was by the ancient demon who was luring the man she oved to his death." Maybe because I'm a writer myself, I've learned to just relax and enjoy the story, appreciating the unique experience each author draws forth and offers for my reading pleasure.

  3. Anonymous Says:
    October 20, 2010 at 2:13 PM

    I may have to pick this up based on the title alone, even if I may not love it.

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