Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin: A Book Review

Alice I Have Been
Author: Melanie Benjamin
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release Date: 2009
Pages: 400
Source: Personal Collection 
Synopsis: Few works of literature are as universally beloved as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Now, in this spellbinding historical novel, we meet the young girl whose bright spirit sent her on an unforgettable trip down the rabbit hole–and the grown woman whose story is no less enthralling.

     “But oh my dear, I am tired of being Alice in Wonderland. Does it sound ungrateful?” 

     Alice Liddell Hargreaves’s life has been a richly woven tapestry: As a young woman, wife, mother, and widow, she’s experienced intense passion, great privilege, and greater tragedy. But as she nears her eighty-first birthday, she knows that, to the world around her, she is and will always be only “Alice.” Her life was permanently dog-eared at one fateful moment in her tenth year–the golden summer day she urged a grown-up friend to write down one of his fanciful stories.

     That story, a wild tale of rabbits, queens, and a precocious young child, becomes a sensation the world over. Its author, a shy, stuttering Oxford professor, does more than immortalize Alice–he changes her life forever. But even he cannot stop time, as much as he might like to. And as Alice’s childhood slips away, a peacetime of glittering balls and royal romances gives way to the urgent tide of war.  

     For Alice, the stakes could not be higher, for she is the mother of three grown sons, soldiers all. Yet even as she stands to lose everything she treasures, one part of her will always be the determined, undaunted Alice of the story, who discovered that life beyond the rabbit hole was an astonishing journey.

     A love story and a literary mystery, Alice I Have Been brilliantly blends fact and fiction to capture the passionate spirit of a woman who was truly worthy of her fictional alter ego, in a world as captivating as the Wonderland only she could inspire.

     My Review: I have never been a fan of Lewis Carroll's, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I have always found parts of the story sad and disturbing. Nor did I know anything about Lewis Carroll’s personal life or the fact that Lewis Carroll was a pseudonym for Charles Dodgson. However, I was surprised to learn that Alice was based off of a real person. So I was curious to read Melanie Benjamin’s, Alice I Have Been, whose story centers on Alice Liddell, and how Lewis Carroll’s children’s book classic affected her life. The story shows us that both Alice Liddell and Lewis Carroll are forever intertwined and cannot be separated.

     The story is narrated by Alice Liddell herself and she discusses three major events of her life that have affected her. The story begins when she is seven years old and is the daughter of the Dean of Christ Church in Oxford. Their next-door neighbor is Charles Dodgson, who is a stuttering mathematics professor. Mr. Dodgson has an intense friendship with Alice and her three sisters, and on one summer afternoon, he tells the sisters the story of Alice in Wonderland. Alice, enthralled with the story, asks Mr. Dodgson to write it down, which he agreed to do. The publication of the story of Alice in Wonderland changed Alice’s life forever.

     Alice is described as a spirited little girl that likes to get dirty and roll on the ground. However, as she grows up, she does not want to grow up. Rather, she wishes that she can remain a little girl forever. However, after the publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and as a young woman, Alice struggles with her identity as the world around her still sees her as the little girl in the children’s book. Alice is a very relatable, likable, and strong heroine. She is constantly trying to find out who she is and to come to terms with herself. Sometimes, she can be selfish and takes others for granted, but like the Alice in Wonderland, a lost little girl, she eventually finds her way to happiness.

     Overall, it is about a woman trying to find her identity. I found Alice’s crush on Mr. Dodgson as a little girl to be weird and uncomfortable. However, I did like Alice’s tragic romance with Prince Leopold, and I found Alice losing two of her sons in WWI to be emotionally touching. The book is slow-paced, which is reminiscent of a lazy summer afternoon, the day when Alice tumbles down a rabbit hole. I recommend this story to anyone who is interested in Lewis Carroll’s Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, the Victorian era, and World War I. I also recommend this book to anyone who is still trying to find his or her identity.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Comments

  1. I loved Alice in Wonderland, so I have definitely marked this book as one to read. From your fantastic review, Lauralee, I feel that it could be a great experience.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks. It was a good experience. If you like Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, I'm sure you will enjoy more than I. I was always a bit too creeped out by Alice in Wonderland.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Blog Tour: Lilli de Jong by Janet Benton: A Book Review

Blog Tour: Sparks of Light by Janet B. Taylor

Blog Tour: Venturess by Betsy Cornwell