I have long been of the opinion that Lewis Carroll's Sylvie and Bruno and Sylvie and Bruno Concluded have been unfairly neglected. I first discovered these books at the age of eight, when I was staying with my grandparents while recovering from an ear infection. After a trip to the doctor, my grandmother took me to Waldenbooks to buy a book to read while I recovered (always a treat for me). On the bargain books table I found a thick red hardbook edition of The complete works of Lewis Carroll. Having already read and enjoyed Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, I immediately decided that this was the book for me. My grandmother agreed to buy it for me, and I remain grateful for this to this day. After rereading the two Alice books (I was working my way sequetially through the volume), I discovered Sylvie and Bruno. I was completely enthralled. These books combined Faerie and England, reality and fantasy, in ways my young mind had never experienced before. To this day, after countless rereads, I still enjoy these books immensely, and each time gain something new from the experience.

Which has led me to ask "Why have these books been so neglected? Why have most people never even heard of them?" And, on much pondering, I have come up with two reasons for this:

The first is that the literary establishment has apparently decided that Carroll is a writer only of sufficient importance to have one great work attached to his name, to be endlessly reprinted in anthologies and discussed in monographs. Carroll already had Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (which, thanks to the Disney movie is hopelessly jumbled up with Through the Looking Glass in most people's minds), so there was no room for him to have another great book.

The second reason I have come up with his that the Sylvie and Bruno books are less popular simply because they expect more of the reader than the Alice books do. Their portmanteau structure can be a little confusing at times, and the sheer quantity of ideas presented requires quite a bit of thought on the part of the reader. Also, the sections of the books set in Victorian England are quite serious in parts, not at all in the light, fanciful vein of the Faerie parts of the books, and this sudden change of pace and tone can be off-putting to some readers. (Also, these sections tend to be written over the heads of children, while many adults feel they are too mature for the Faerie sections of the book, creating a book with no clearly defined target audience).

Despite the flaws of the Sylvie and Bruno books (and I will not try to pretend they have none), I do not hesitate in the least to recommend them as being worth your time to read.

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