It was on a boating expedition to Godstow in July 1862 that 10-year-old Alice Liddell begged Charles Dodgson to write down the stories he had invented for the dean of Christ Church's children. The excursion would go down in history as Dodgson went on to publish, under the pen-name of Lewis Carroll, tales that have intrigued and delighted generations: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel, Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There.
Oxford historian Mark Davies' retelling of this famous story is rich in anecdotal and period detail, from Prince Leopold's black eye to Carroll's description of his stories as “interminable”. He explores the important influence of the River Thames on the Alice stories, and on the circumstances of their creation and publication. Carroll's fantasy was both inspired and constrained by the horizons of his material world, and even the seemingly boundless imaginative sphere of Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass is found to have its roots firmly in the watery Oxford landscape that gave it birth.
A historical and literary study, Alice in Waterland deals with the river in various sections, using extracts from Carroll's diaries and images of Oxford beauty spots, alongside descriptions of locals thought to have provided Carroll with character inspiration.