Tina's Reviews > Alice I Have Been

Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin
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's review
Jul 27, 2011

really liked it
Read in July, 2010

Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin

Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland is a universally recognized piece of literature, read by adults and children the world over. It has been adapted for television, film, comics and live performances as well as being translated into numerous languages. The book, Alice I Have Been, focusses on the historical context of this work with a fictional twist.

The story is told by the main character, Alice Liddell Hargreaves, and goes back and forth in time to retell "the real Alice's" connection to Charles Dodgson (a.k.a. Lewis Carroll) and the creation of his masterpiece. The idea that Charles Dodgson based the story of Alice in Wonderland on Alice Liddell is a theory that bears some truth. The characters, setting and historical events depicted in this book are accurate, although artistic license is definitely taken with the relationship and actions of the main characters.

The book seems to imply that the relationship between the spunky, precocious Alice and Charles Dodgson was inappropriate, especially since she was 11 to his 31 years of age. Although Alice's siblings often went on their adventures together, Alice and Charles were unusually close, to the point that I felt uncomfortable reading about it - in particular the description of Alice posing as a gypsy girl for a photograph. In reality, photography was a hobby for Charles Dodgson. He enjoyed taking pictures of family, friends and colleagues, especially their children.

In the end, rumours destroy the relationship of Alice and Charles. Alice grows older and moves on, falling in love with Queen Victoria's hemophiliac son, Prince Leopold. However, her past comes back to haunt her, destroying all hopes of a marriage between her and the Prince. A great love must be abandoned and all are heartbroken, including the reader. Here again, history shows a possible connection between Prince Leopold and Alice's family but this detail has been significantly embellished.

Alice settles and marries, perhaps not for love, although she realizes, in retrospect, that she truly did love her husband. Of the three sons she bears him, two die in World War I and the grief of Alice as a mother and of her husband Regi is heartwrenching. Of her "three little men, all in a row, three little soldiers", only one remains. How she comes to terms with her past in order to appreciate her present and the importance of her connection to Charles Dodgson in the events that unfold makes for a fascinating and provocative story.

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