Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Review: 'Alice in Brexitland' by Lucien Young

Brexit is one of the most defining political events in, at least, European history since the creation of the European Union. Whereas the latter ushered in a time of ever closer bonds and peace, the former has set off a period of unrest, disenchantment and anger. All throughout the Western world discontent is spreading and the popular vote seems to swing to the right side of the spectrum, although there seems to be a recent return to sanity. Swiftly followed by the election of Donald Tr*mp in America, Brexit is casting long shadows over Britain. So how do you deal with a situation like that? Well, if you're British, it includes a lot of humour and satire.

Pub. Date: 01/06/2017
Publisher: Ebury Press

Lying on a riverbank on a lazy summer’s afternoon – 23rd June 2016, to be precise – Alice spots a flustered-looking white rabbit called Dave calling for a referendum. Following him down a rabbit-hole, she emerges into a strange new land, where up is down, black is white, experts are fools and fools are experts... 
She meets such characters as the Corbynpillar, who sits on a toadstool smoking his hookah and being no help to anyone; Humpty Trumpty, perched on a wall he wants the Mexicans to pay for; the Cheshire Twat, who likes to disappear leaving only his grin, a pint, and the smell of scotch eggs remaining; and the terrifying Queen of Heartlessness, who’ll take off your head if you dare question her plan for Brexit. Will Alice ever be able to find anyone who speaks sense?
So how do you move on when you feel like the country you love is sinking further and further down the Brexit-hole? You find the similarities to one of England's most beloved Classics and write a hilarious book. Or at least, that's the way Young found. It is a typically British book, in many ways. The dark humour, the exasperation, the throwaway nods, the biting social commentary, Alice in Brexitland couldn't be more British. From dedicating it to David Cameron to Alice's immediate disgust to Tr*mp, Young never ones loses his sharpness and humour. This novella is also beautifully illustrated by Ollie Man, his drawings being hilarious, fitting and perfectly in sink with the illustrations we know and love from Alice in Wonderland.

Young tackles almost all the major characters in the Brexit drama and finds their perfect equivalent in Carroll's Wonderland. Jeremy Corbyn is the slightly aloof and puzzling Caterpillar, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove are Tweedledee and Tweedledum, Donald Tr*mp is Humpty Dumpty, etc. It makes so much sense in how overdrawn it is that it's a miracle no one thought about it before. It is cathartic to read such an over-the-top story about the mess that is Brexit, even when some of Young's points strike a little bit too close to home. What is the meaning of truth post the Brexit debate and the Tr*mp election? Did the Leave campaign have any plans for after the referendum or is their best bet really to hurl us all to the sun and go down in a blaze of glory? For as long as this novella lasts, Alice in Brexitland can make you slightly forget just how much is up in the air right now, replacing worries with laughs. But in a surprisingly heartfelt finale, Young's Alice does pull at the heartstrings with her pleas for sanity.

Young's writing is a great combination between a tribute to Lewis Carroll and a satire on contemporary political discourse. On the one hand there is the beautiful, nonsensical prose of Alice in Wonderland with its strange words and phrases, while on the other hand there is the disconcerting, frightening prose of Tr*mp, Farage and co. with their strange words and phrases.The fact that Carroll can make sense in his writing, reveal truth by seemingly obscuring it, while many politicians nowaday make no sense in their attempts to obscure the whole concept of truth, is incredibly saddening. Young combines Carroll's sense of humour and fun, with the reality of Brexit and creates a hilarious mishmash of seriously worrying statements by the Cheshire Twat (Farage), over-the-top yet accurate caricatures of the Tea Party, and a befuddled Alice who just wants a straight answer for once. There are many laugh out loud moments in Alice in Brexitland, not least of all whenever a poem or song rears its head. Released at the beginning of this month, I'm almost saddened by the fact Young couldn't factor in the recent General Election, bringing along the downfall of his Heartless Queen and the rise of the Corbynpillar. But perhaps this means there is now room for a sequel? Alice Through the Brexit-Glass?

I give this novella...

4 Universes!

Although rather short, Alice in Brexitland is a delight! Excellently thought through, Young writes the perfect satire for Brexit England, never letting up on his scrutiny of our politicians. However, this book will make you crave for an escape from the Brexithole. I'd recommend this to those interested in contemporary English politics and in an escape from those very same politics.

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