Sheri's Reviews > Alice I Have Been

Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
6970638
's review
May 17, 2012

liked it
bookshelves: coming-of-age, male-female-power-sex-attractivenes, poverty-class-issues
Read from May 13 to 16, 2012

Benjamin sets out to do what she said she was going to do. She takes an intriguing non-fiction story (the relationship between Lewis Carroll and the "real" Alice) and embellishes into an entertaining novel.

I wondered throughout about some of the points (did Alice really know Prince Leopold, for example) and enjoyed the essays at the end in which Benjamin explains where she got documentation for her characters and major plot points. Overall it was a good read.

I didn't like the tone. I understand that Alice was ultimately a Victorian woman and that she (as do we all in parts) turned into her mother in the end (certainly she goes from being the wild child to the criticizing mother herself), but I did not think the tone was consistent. The entire book is written in hindsight; as an older person Alice would not change her tone; she should be more forgiving of her mother from the beginning (and recognize her own change over time). I also thought it was complete bullshit that she can't "remember" the afternoon on the train until Benjamin wants to reveal it. Certainly she blanks some of this out; certainly as a young child she might not have wanted to face the potential (or understood) sexual implications of her relationship with Dodgsen. BUT as an 80 year old rather uptight woman rehashing it in the 1930s she has already gone through her revelation and she knows all of it. I would have preferred it if she was simply vague and did not suffer from "traumatic amnesia" (which in my opinion is used way too often in literature).

There was one other point on which I did not think Benjamin was consistent. Alice frequently complains that everyone needed her to be Alice in Wonderland...even Leo. I think this is absolutely not correct. Dodgsen needed her to be AIW; the public was entranced with AIW (and the "real Alice"), but her family (especially her mother) did not want her to be AIW. Ina was jealous and wished she was AIW and especially Leo, who loved Alice for herself and didn't even know about AIW until he dumped her. Regardless of what was true...as a novelist, Benjamin makes these broad complaints that are not supported in her own text.

Finally, there was a happy quote, "What she said was true; what she said was always, strictly, true. Yet never was it entirely honest." I frequently employ this mechanism myself and found the quote entertaining. Although, I would argue that I am occasionally not entirely honest (rather than never).
flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Alice I Have Been.
Sign In »

No comments have been added yet.