Book Giveaway: The Mystery of Lewis Carroll by Jenny Woolf

One of the best things about having this blog is the frequency with which I “meet” kind, like-minded people.

Case in point: A while back, I got an email from Jenny Woolf, author of The Mystery of Lewis Carroll: Discovering the Whimsical, Thoughtful, and Sometimes Lonely Man Who Created “Alice in Wonderland, who wanted to chat a bit about blogging, book promotion, and the like. I quickly offered Jenny space here to introduce herself and her book as I, too, was fascinated to learn about why she chose Lewis Carroll as her subject.

I became even more interested in the back story once I started reading through The Mystery of Lewis Carroll (Jenny had sent me a proof copy). I love biographies in general, and this one about a legendary literary figure who has been portrayed in so many different lights does *not* disappoint. Even though many scholars have written about Carroll, Jenny managed to uncover something that no other researcher ever had before. Fascinating!

Haus Publishing has kindly offered up a free copy of The Mystery of Lewis Carroll for one lucky Bleeding Espresso reader, but you must have a mailing address in the UK, Europe, or the Commonwealth (where the publisher has distribution rights). If you’d like to win a copy and meet this criteria, please leave a comment below by 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, February 21.

I will be announcing the winner on the Bleeding Espresso Facebook fan page and via Twitter @michellefabio. If you’re not a fan or following, please correct that!

Here’s Jenny, who you can also read at her blog, From Somewhere in Time and follow on Twitter @jennywoolf:

I loved Alice from when I was seven, and first became enthralled by her adventures. And I ended up writing The Mystery of Lewis Carroll because I wanted to know more about the man who had created my favorite book.

I started, like anyone would, by reading the biographies of him. But you know, I didn’t entirely believe any of them. As a ย journalist I’d written many magazine profiles, and I was well used to subjects and their friends trying to pull the wool over my eyes. So I wondered if Carroll had been using the Victorian equivalent of “spin” to hide various aspects of his own life.

I wasn’t thinking of writing a biography at this stage – I just wanted to understand Carroll. So my next approach was to start looking for little-known and unpublished documents that might illuminate him more.

I had some luck when I found his personal bank account, unseen for over 100 years and mouldering away in a bank archive. With my husband Tony, I transcribed, annotated and self published it as “Lewis Carroll in His Own Account,” and the BBC quickly got in touch and asked for a radio programme about it.

I did the programme . . . but I still didn’t think of writing a biography.

No, I wanted to create a highly illustrated, imaginative and colourful multimedia project to describe Carroll – because by now I’d discovered he was actually a fascinating, unusual, likeable, (although tricksy and secretive) person.

But publishers are conservative creatures. In the end, my multimedia dreams evaporated and I ended up writing a biography after all.

Or almost. Actually I prefer to think of it as a portrait. Because it doesn’t start at the beginning and end at the end like most biographies do. Instead, it takes ten important themes in Lewis Carroll’s life, and examines what they meant to him. From Alice in Wonderland to photography, from his little girl friends to his religious and supernatural interests, from his family to his sex life, I hope that it will offer a glimpse of the kind of human, emotional, eccentric and utterly unique person that he was.


The Mystery of Lewis Carroll was published in the US on 2 February by St Martin’s Press and will be published on 1 March in the UK by Haus Publishing.


Remember to leave a comment to win your copy! For those not eligible, please still feel free to leave your comment or question for Jenny–or even your own personal Alice in Wonderland memory (please tell me you’re not eligible though)!

35 Beans of Wisdom to “Book Giveaway: The Mystery of Lewis Carroll by Jenny Woolf”
  1. Gil

    How do people ever find something that has been hiding in a bank archive for over 100 years? I don’t think I can look in my bank’s archives.

    Jenny has answered your question below Gil…who knew?!

  2. 02.15.2010

    so pleased that you and Jenny have connected! Her research journey into Lewis Carroll has been fascinating to read. I love it that she describes her work as a portrait of Carroll, rather than a biography!

    Indeed, and Jenny has painted a beautiful portrait ๐Ÿ™‚

    .-= Absolute Vanilla´s last blog ..An interview with YA author, Gillian Philip =-.

  3. Paola

    I remember “Alice in Wonderlands” was the first English book I ever read. I bought it on my first solo trip abroad, in London, together with “The portrait of Dorian Gray” that I never managed to go through.

    Of course, I watched the Disney’s cartoon tons of times when I was younger, so I took advantage of this to give it a go for my first English reading. Well, the book was even better than the cartoon, with a lot more fantastic details and stories.
    I am still amazed by Lewis Carroll’s fantasy and mind, and I would be eager to know more about him – I confess I never had the opportunity to hear about him except as the author of “Alice in Wonderland.”

    I didn’t either Paola! That’s great that it was your first English book…what a great place to start ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. 02.15.2010

    This sounds absolutely fascinating and I would love to win a copy. Thanks for giving us the opportunity here.

    My pleasure, Di. Good luck!

    .-= Di´s last blog ..A Glimpse of the Liminal Spaces Flanders Fields Exhibition … =-.

  5. 02.15.2010

    This book sounds great! Count me in!!

    You’re in! In bocca al lupo!

  6. 02.15.2010

    Thanks for this lovely post, Michelle. I am really pleased you liked reading the book, and it’s great reading the comments there have been so far. Yes, I’ll be very happy to answer any questions people have.

    Gil, the rule (in the UK) is that the account holder needs to have been dead for 100 years.

    Thanks for clearing that up, Jenny…good to know ๐Ÿ™‚

    .-= Jenny Woolf´s last blog ..Book Giveaway And Another Cat (Cheshire, this time) =-.

  7. Katherine

    Wow, this would be a fascinating read especially now Alice In Wonderland the movie is coming out soon. Would love to read this so I can re-think his books that I have read in a new way. Have loved historical biographies since I discovered Antonia Fraser’s work! Cheers

    It’s so true that reading about the personal lives of authors can really alter the way you read their work. Thanks so much for coming by Katherine; best of luck!

  8. I know very little about Lewis Carroll. Would love to read more about him.

    That’s where I was before I started reading…truly fascinating stuff!

    .-= nyc/caribbean ragazza´s last blog ..Snow in Rome?! =-.

  9. Paula Aiello

    I was an English Major and Teacher and my husband is a Lewis Carroll aficionado – he would adore this book (it would be a perfect gift). Is everyone looking forward to the new film with Johnny Depp & Helena Bonham Carter?

    I know I am! Of course I look forward to anything that involves Johnny Depp ๐Ÿ˜‰

  10. 02.15.2010

    .-= Gwilym´s last blog ..James Joyce in Zรผrich =-.

  11. 02.15.2010

    Oh this portrait of Lewis Carroll sounds so interesting I would love to be able to read this.

    If by chance I am lucky enough to win this copy I will register it at so that I can send it travelling around the world and hopefully gain more exposure and therefore more interested readers.

    Thankyou Michelle for telling us about Jenny Woolf and her forthcoming book.

    Wonderful! Best of luck LindyLouMac ๐Ÿ˜€

    .-= LindyLouMac´s last blog ..St Valentines Day San Valentino =-.

  12. 02.15.2010

    Woohoo I love giveaways ๐Ÿ™‚ I have one on my site at the moment too! Please enter me for this one. Fankooo

    Thanks for coming over Bec ๐Ÿ™‚

    .-= BecsLifeOnline´s last blog ..Freebies – Giveaway – Competition – Free gift!!! =-.

  13. 02.15.2010

    Sounds like an interesting book!

    I am now on twitter as well, though still getting used to it – still feels very two dimensional to me (in comparison to Facebook). I am now following you there as well.

    Please enter me for this – this definitely sounds like a book I would like to read.

    Yes, I think it takes a while to really “feel” Twitter, and sometimes it isn’t as fun if people aren’t actively participating at that time…I most like it for spreading word on articles/posts I like and for seeing what others are reading and recommending ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. 02.16.2010

    Sounds like a wonderful book!

    I’m really enjoying it so far ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. Michele

    My Dad is the biggest Lewis Carrol afianado I know – my parents even have a room in their house called the “Alice Room”. This would be a great gift for him! Thanks for the chance to win this great book, Michele

    Wow, this would be a perfect gift, Michele! Best of luck!

  16. 02.16.2010

    What a wonderful book Jenny has written! And I can appreciate the amount of work she has put in it.
    I’d love to read it and I’d like to take part in the draw. I live in Australia, a Commonwealth country, so I guess I am eligible?

    I have also been working with the works of Lewis Carroll during last year, so this is very close to my interests at the moment.
    All the best and thank you for introducing Jenny Woolf to us.

    Tuula Olin, author of 101 Famous Quotes from Alice in Wonderland

    Thanks for coming by, Tuula!

    .-= Tuula Olin´s last blog ..Movie Stills And Quotes From Alice In Wonderland =-.

  17. Ciaocristina

    I don’t know much about Lewis Carroll, except that he wrote Alice in Wonderland. this is timely, with the movie coming out soon. I’m curious about what the bank archives revealed! I can only imagine! Cristina

    Yes, it definitely is good timing with the movie coming out…hopefully that means good things for Jenny and her book ๐Ÿ™‚

  18. Irish jen

    Count me in Please…sounds interesting!

    You’re in! Thanks for coming by Jen!

  19. martine

    Looks a fascinating book, clearly lots of research has gone into it.

    Absolutely! Jenny’s passion really shines through too ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. 02.16.2010

    I would love to learn what is the mystery – and how so much could be found from looking at an old bank book. I wonder how our bank statements will stand up to the test of time – will they be like all those re-runs of “I Love Lucy” still out there in the ether.

    Definitely a good question, Jo!

  21. Gil

    Thanks ladies!

    Prego! Now are you figuring out who has died 101 years ago to see if you can make some requests…I find that fascinating! I wonder if that is the rule in the US too, or if varies by bank, etc.

  22. Hats off to Jenny for uncovering something new. See, we really can always learn something new.

    Sometimes all you have to do is ask, too! Best of luck in the drawing!

    .-= Cherrye at My Bella Vita´s last blog ..Travel Tip Tuesday: Donโ€™t Make These Five Mistakes When Planning Your Trip to Italy =-.

  23. vanessa

    interesting book especially that LC would put himself in the red to support charities.

    Indeed, Vanessa! Thanks for commenting ๐Ÿ™‚

  24. 02.17.2010

    Sounds fascinating. I look forward to reading it.

    Best of luck!

    .-= travelingsuep´s last blog ..AUCTIONING FOR CHARITY =-.

  25. Jessica

    Me too, I hope I can read it. =]

    It just keeps getting better as I read it!

  26. 02.19.2010

    I really do not know anything about him-but would love to read this book

    thanks for this great post.

    Highly recommended, Esme!

    .-= Esme´s last blog ..Window Shopping in Paris =-.

  27. Helena

    I’m really curious about this biography! For the first time in a long time, Lewis Carroll is being vindicated after so many years of public humiliation. It really makes me happy to know about his philanthropism. That’s exactly how I imagined him to be! Cheers for Jenny Woolf’s new book!

    Thanks for coming by Helena!

  28. Gayle

    I have always loved the stories of Alice and always been such a big fan. Then to discover that I was related to the author was an enormous thrill. My daughter’s bedroom is in an Alice theme….and she too loves Alice in Wonderland. This new book sounds wonderful and look forward to reading it…a copy would be fabulous.

    Best of luck Gayle!

  29. mary worrall

    Hi there! and well done for writing something that perhaps at long last puts Carroll in perspective. As a lifelong Alice fan I am so tired of people pushing the ‘pervert’ tag at me, maybe this might right the balance a tad. Is it impossible to believe that someone genuinley liked children and found pleasure in the company of their unfettered imaginations?

    I think you’ll enjoy this one, Mary! Good luck!

  30. Frans

    Sometimes I think everything is written about Lewis Carroll, and then a new book jumps up and you know there is a lot of info and new ideas in that book and I am eager to read it. Please, send it toThe Netherlands:-)

    Best of luck Frans!

  31. Heinz-J.

    Ever since my university studies way back in the seventies, when I attended a lecture on ‘Language and Communication in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ I have been interested in Alice and Lewis Carroll.

    Good luck!

  32. Lucifer's Cheshire Cat

    Wow..a giveaway..Sounds interesting! And what? I should get my hands on this copy!it will help enlarging my Lewis Carroll bookshelf!

    And alas, i know it won’t be translated in Italian ๐Ÿ™

    Best of luck!

  33. Margaret Heaton

    As an active member of the L.C. Soc. I would love to receive a copy of the book, it sounds an interesting addition to the knowledge already collected.
    Mailing address:-
    M. Heaton

    Thanks Margaret! I’ve deleted your address from the public comments but saved it in case you’re the lucky winner!

  34. Anna

    This one seems also to be a great book. I love Alice in Wonderland and in general when I do tests they say I am similar to her. No sure if it’s possitive or negative lol.
    I would be happy to read this !!!!

    Haha, hope you get your hands on a copy, Anna!

  35. 06.27.2010

    I’ve only just come across your website and am obviously too late for entering for a copy of Jenny Woolf’s book. As it happens I was intending to purchase my own copy. But I’m writing nevertheless to to let you and your readers know about Alice’s Day which takes place on July 10th this year in Oxford, the birthplace of the Alice books. Organised by Story Museum – – it consists of various events for different age groups throughout the day. As a publisher of Oxford’s own audiobook of Alice in Wonderland, – I am involved in organising A Mad Hatter’s Lunch Party at the arts venue, The Jam Factory. We are asking people to dress up as their favourite Alice character and compose their own nonsense poem or prose piece for reciting on the day – for prizes. All details of the event are on our website: The event is free to enter, but there is a fantastic lunch menu – including Queen of Hearts jam tarts and March hare beef burgers – of ยฃ11 for two courses and a Drink Me concoction. Email

    We would welcome online submissions of nonsense poems or prose for those unable to come to Alice’s Day and will give a copy of our audiobook as a prize. Entries to Deadline July 10th 2010.

    Oxford’s Alice’s Day is very special and I would love it if you could pass on the above information to your readers. In return for this favour, we’d be happy to send you a complimentary copy of the CD. Please email your response to me. Thank you very much!

    Sounds so fun! I will post about it on my blog’s Facebook page; have you visited the FB page of Jenny’s book? I’m sure she’d be interested as well ๐Ÿ™‚

Michelle FabioMichelle Fabio is an American attorney-turned-freelance writer living in her family's ancestral village in Calabria, Italy and savoring simplicity one sip at a time. 

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