Sylvie and Bruno Concluded
While the Alice books feel more linear in plot, as well as claustrophobic (and thereby cosy), Sylvie and Bruno Concluded (1893) continues the story's broad setting - a combination of the real world and the two mythical siblings' world. It is both fun and surprising the way the plot jumps back and forth, and sometimes combines, the characters in the real world and those in Sylvie and Bruno's world. On the one hand, you have young Dr. Forester, whose broken heart regains hope when he learns his relationship with Lady Muriel is not altogether over. At the same time, there are Sylvie and Bruno who must hold onto the love, symbolized by a locket, their father entrusted to them, and do what they can to help the people around them, whether they are visible or not. The narrator, meanwhile, is the bridge that finds the commonality between the two (and also a good deal of nonsense and contradiction nobody else seems to notice).
Interspersed with all of this is a lot of religious and social commentary by Lewis Carroll. He would often have the various characters debating with one another, and while it left the reader to guess what Carroll was thinking, it was nice to read a relatively realistic commentary. In some cases his opinion was very clear (e.g. what he wrote in the preface about some "stagey" church services was fascinating and quite relevant for today). I found I often agreed with him - of course, not always - in any case, reading what actual Victorians thought is always interesting.
It's a difficult book to describe otherwise. Because of the topics, I wouldn't recommend it for children; teens and older could get a lot out of it, though. Honestly, it was moving at times; it's a book that really drives home what true love is, and such a pure, spiritual, unselfish love transcends the mercenary way our culture likes to divide and label it. If you liked the Alice books, and you wish there were more brotherly/sisterly love in the world, then you really should read Sylvie and Bruno and its sequel.
5 out of 5 stars.