Alanna's Reviews > Alice I Have Been

Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin
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Aug 25, 2011

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Read in August, 2011

This would really be 3.5 stars. I was getting a little nervous about it because, as historical fiction, I just couldn't be sure what was fact and what was just the author's imagination. But she had a note at the end clarifying all that, so then I felt much better. (I'm starting to think that historical fiction is not the right genre for me to be reading-- I keep getting worried that all the fiction in the book will end up on a Wikipedia page somewhere and lead lots of people astray!)

So basically, Benjamin is speculating here about the nature of Alice (of "Alice in Wonderland" fame) and her relationship with Lewis Carrol. People have been wondering about that since the books were written, so she's chosen a subject that many people are curious about. Unfortunately, there is no way of ever knowing the truth, so it's all just so much speculation. But having said that, I actually quite liked Benjamin's theory, so I'll give her props for that. And I also like the way she organized it all so it felt like a bit of a mystery. That was a nice touch.

My only real qualm, then, with the novel was the main character herself. As a little girl, she was every bit as charming as I suspect Mr. Dodgson must have found her. But as a young adult and an old lady, I found her selfish, cold, and unlikeable. That made it a lot harder to empathize with her. Also, her romance with Prince Leopold didn't do much for me-- they were sarcastic in a time when I don't think most people were ever sarcastic (but sarcasm in a high Victorian tone, which is kind of unbearable). And while she kept talking about how he was her "equal" in every way, we never actually SAW them discussing music or art or anything other than how much they adored each other. So I had a hard time believing or caring about their relationship very much. Those are fairly major flaws, but other than that, I did quite enjoy the novel.
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