The book has been widely reviewed both in the press worldwide, on air and online. Here is a selection. Please alert me if any of these don't work when you try them.
The Times (London)
"At the heart of Woolf's book is her serendipitous discovery of 45 years' worth of Carroll's bank statements. As any suspicious spouse knows, these make gripping reading, revealing more than any diary entry ....Carroll's writing is entertaining and readable because of its mysteries, and the same might be said of this quirky and committed book."
Times Literary Supplement
"[Woolf is] scrupulous about drawing attention to gaps in the record ... The only area in which she allows herself the luxury of overstatement concerns the importance of Carroll's Oxford bank account records, which she has unearthed, and of which she is forgivably proud."
Wall Street Journal
"The Mystery of Lewis Carroll goes beyond the central controversy over his life to shed light on a man who has proved elusive to his biographers."
"Both sides of [Dodgson] would have appreciated Jenny Woolf's sensible and generous new biography, The Mystery of Lewis Carroll. Dodgson might ruefully have recognised the contradictions of a professional life in which he upheld standard forms of piety in public while privately devouring books about ghosts and witchcraft. Carroll might have been grateful for the detective work involved in going through his bank account, which shows that the figure post-Freudian readers have been encouraged to see as pathetically seedy, if not actively predatory, actually donated large sums to charities that supported children who had been sexually exploited. Both would have been thankful for Woolf's dismissal of previous biographers' more lurid hypotheses, from drug addiction to stories about Jack the Ripper, and both would have enjoyed Woolf's own enjoyment at his verbal gymnastics and philosophical contortions."
"The Lewis Carroll she portrays is the man as his contemporaries might have seen him and not as he appears to us through the looking glass of time. It is, I think, a highly worthwhile enterprise and a useful corrective to the flood of fictionalized accounts ... Woolf's thoughtful, commonsensical approach leaves the reader feeling satisfied..."
"In place of Freudian bafflegab or crazed acts of decryption, Woolf offers an audit of her subject. She has tracked down the details of his bank accounts, which record decades of profit, loss, gifts and purchases - and is the only source of information about Carroll unshaped by family or friends. Here are his desires and fears expressed as pounds, shillings and pence: his payments to doctors who offered therapies to cure his stammer; the receipt for his Velociman hand-propelled tricycle and"Whitley's Exerciser"; the red ink that immortalises his carefree attitude to debt. What emerges most forcefully, however, is his generosity..."
"Jenny Woolf's engaging biography. ... Throughout The Mystery of Lewis Carroll, she always makes scrupulously clear what is fact and what is speculation. As a Lewis Carroll scholar, she has been hitherto best known for discovering and analyzing the writer's bank statements, which plainly lay out just how generous Dodgson was in assigning much of his income ...In The Mystery of Lewis Carroll Woolf eschews the minutiae and factual richness of Cohen's magisterial biography of 1995. Her aim is to present a convincing portrait, and she writes with affection as well as admiration for the man revealed by her research."
"Woolf sheds more light on the mysterious Dodgson in this new biography."
Lewis Carroll Society of North America
"Woolf has penned a worthy new biography... ...both engrossing and illuminating... this volume represents a very good "state of the nation" with regard to current critical thought about Carroll, and is a solid book to recommend."
Lewis Carroll Review, London
"A clear, commonsensical balanced picture of Carroll's life - ... for the Carroll virgin, The Mystery of Lewis Carroll is a fine introduction; for Carrollians, it is an entertaining reconstruction ... a lively, engaging book."
Winnipeg Free Press
"This biography...answers these questions gracefully, knowledgeably and fairly. It is a well-written and excellent summary of the life of a fascinating writer ...this even-handedness distinguishes Woolf's work from many others. She willingly confronts extremes but will not yield to the temptation of the biographer to make wild allegations that cannot be reasonably supported by the evidence....She has written a very readable, enjoyable, and fascinating biography of a brilliant and creative genius."
"Woolf has worked hard to back up her information with facts and source documents. And her careful attention to detail is evident. As with any biography, she has made her own conclusions and shared her own sentiments, but the book feels less speculative than others of the genre. The Mystery of Lewis Carroll is not a fast read, but it has a rhythm that keeps it moving forward at a comfortable pace. At times, discussions may go too far in depth for the lay reader, but overall Woolf's piece is interesting, informative and enjoyable."
"Woolf ...covers a lot of old ground in this biography but entertainingly so. She also uses ...Carroll's bank records, to paint a well-rounded picture of a "whimsical, thoughtful and sometimes lonely man"; and puts to rest some scurrilous rumors about Carroll"
"...the perfect book for those who love Alice in Wonderland and want to know more about its unusual author."
"Much critical scholarship on Carroll and his literary peers has focused on the biographical. Jenny Woolf's new book, The Mystery of Lewis Carroll, sticks to this tradition. Her goal is to find the "real man" behind the literary feints, the professional facades, and the puzzling photographs. Biographical details are invoked to explain creative choices. Woolf links, for example, the quiet, melancholy affect of Through the Looking-Glass (as opposed to the brisk mania of Alice in Wonderland) to the death of Carroll's father. She draws on reminiscences of the elderly survivors of the Liddell circle to illuminate the life of Charles and Alice 70 years earlier."
Daresbury Chronicle, Cheshire
"Woolf's writing is sterling.... she presents facts, cleanly stated, interspersed with commentary, expressed in well crafted, carefully chosen language.... Woolf has written a really, really good book"
"A compelling work, both as a portrait of the author and as an account of academic sleuthing"
"There are many biographies about this intriguing character, but The Mystery of Lewis Carroll has to be one of the most significant. Woolf successfully humanises the famous author."
"Holds the reader's attention...a remarkable job... a fresh approach to an old and loved storyteller."
More Media links
I do not recommend the BBC TV documentary "The Secret Life of Lewis Carroll" which was found by regulators to have misled contributors and has some very serious flaws.
Media work is often ephemeral, but I am hoping that the following link will remain up for a while as it is well worth a listen if you are interested in Carroll and Alice. It's a long programme for CBC Radio by Cindy Bisaillon.