Sue's Reviews > Alice I Have Been

Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin
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's review
Jan 03, 2012

liked it
bookshelves: fiction-history
Read in January, 2012

I have mixed emotions about this story, partly attributable to the writing of the story, and partly to the story itself.

First, as to the writing, my review is mixed. I had a difficult time keeping engaged during the first third of the book, but then the story picked up for me and my reading became smoother.

It was at that point, about a third of the way in, that I decided to do a little internet research on Alice Liddell and Charles Dodgson to see if I could find out what was fact and what was fiction in this story. BTW, at the end of the book (at least in the ebook version) the author gives a good amount of detail about her findings on this question, and her information is fairly consistent with the answers I found on the internet.

It was at that same point that I began to feel that the story - the real story, not the just the author's version, had a darker side, and I felt somewhat uncomfortable getting into the private lives of these two individuals. What was, was. There's no amount of wistful thinking that will change the past. But did I need to know the details? My answer was "No." Had I chosen a pure biography to read, I wouldn't have chosen one with this subject matter.

Could the author's interpretation, for fictionalized purposes, represent the actual facts of the situation? Sure. I have no doubt that it could be a reasonable representation of the times and the lives of Alice, her family, Charles and his contemporaries. Things have changed, and what was acceptable then (even if only barely so) may not be acceptable today. But for me, it was TMI (too much information).

What did I like about the story? In particular, I thought the Liddell family situation was interesting and entirely believable. The gossip, the sibling relationships, the roles of the parents all rang true to me. I was very touched by the relationship between the adult Alice and her husband, each devoted to the other in their own way. I liked that Alice was portrayed as a real human being, a daughter, a sister, a wife, and a mother. The author showed me Alice as a child and as a woman. Even Alice's fantasies rang true to me. I liked the Alice the author brought to life for me.

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