Laura's Reviews > Alice I Have Been

Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin
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Sep 09, 2009

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bookshelves: adult-fiction, historical-fiction, friendship, siblings

Alice of Wonderland's story--both her actual existence and Carroll's created existence--makes for fascinating fiction. In Benjamin's historical novel, readers are invited inside the mind of Alice of Wonderland, or rather, of Alice Pleasance Liddell (later Alice Hargreaves). As Alice looks back on her early years from her current viewpoint as a woman in her eighth decade, she reflects, "But oh my dear, I am tired of being Alice in Wonderland. Does it sound ungrateful?"

Alice has some pretty fair justification for being tired; throughout her life, she plays many roles--some simultaneously, some indelible. She is eternal child, gypsy girl, young woman in love, wife, and mother. All of these roles are inextricably intertwined with and effected by her being THE Alice of Wonderland.

When she urged her friend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (pseudonym Lewis Carroll) to write down the fanciful tale he told of her one day during an outing on the river with her sisters, she hardly could have imagined the story would become a beloved literary classic. She just knew that Dodgson told a story for her, and she wanted it written down.

While Dodgson's story of Alice's adventures is firmly set in the fantasy world of Wonderland, their real life story is a bit more difficult to illuminate with any certainty. Alice and Dodgson's close relationship and subsequent rift in relationship is shrouded in mystery. The letters and diaries of those involved from that time period have not survived. This makes Benjamin's re-imagining of what might have happened all the more admirable. All those who love Alice and/or speculative historical fiction will find Alice I Have Been to be a riveting, provocative, and enjoyable read.
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