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If you want to know the real story behind the story, the book you need to read is The Real Alice in Wonderland by her descendants, C.M. Rubin and Gabriella Rubin. The book is available in Barnes and Noble stores nationally. It has received rave reviews from NPR, Booklist, Voya and others.
Behind the Story
I found Benjamin's 'Alice I Have Been' to be fascinating with many of life's experiences seamlessly expressed. To gain the most of this story, I needed to read a bit about the actual life of Lewis Carroll as well as the Liddell family (Alice was the third of three Liddell daughters). In interviews about this book, Benjamin relates her interest in the actual Liddell/Dodson work and social relationship. Because not all is known of that actual relationship, she builds 'Alice I Have Been' as a work of fiction. Reading about Charles Lutwidge Dodson's (pen name Lewis Carroll) life enriched the tenor of this book for me.
what a treat
The best part of the book was the authentic voices used; I can just picture this as a wonderful audio book. The weakest part is the third section but I delighted in this book and am now back to reading Alice in Wonderland and will see Tim Burton's movie adaptation after!
Where was the editor?
I came to this book with a keen interest on how the author might create a historical memoir of sorts. I thought it would be a fascinating story. Instead, I found myself frustrated with the author's choice to sexualize 11 year old Alice. It didn't seem legitimate and struck me as anachronistic. The Victorian setting, mores, and dictates apparently have no influence on Alice. Really? She "yearns" to fell the hand of her "lover." Please. Where was the editor? Poorly, poorly written. I hope this tanks.
A Bookshelf Monstrosity
Meet the real Alice
"But oh my dear, I am tired of being Alice in Wonderland. Does it sound ungrateful?"
Kimberli M. (Jessup, MD)
Good Writing, not crazy about plot
I had some vague idea that Alice in Wonderland was indeed based on a real girl. What I didn't realize, however, was that Charles Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll, knew Alice Liddell quite well and even photographed her extensively when she was a young girl.
I completely lost myself to Liddell's world, living at Oxford as the Dean's daughter with her father, mother, and sister. Dodgson and Alice understand each other and have an emotional connection that, while not altogether inappropriate, often teeters on the edge of an intimacy that could be disturbing. It is this strangely close bond that threatens to tarnish Alice's reputation and follow her forever.
This is historical fiction at its best. Melanie Benjamin extensively researched Liddell's life and stuck close to her story. An author's note in the back of the book gives insight as to what is fact and what is fiction in Benjamin's narrative, but suffice it to say that the author has captured the essence of both Alice and Lewis Carroll's humble beginnings. Highly recommended.
The author creates a vivid picture with her prose, mingling fact and fiction. The author is gifted, but I think she should have followed Alice a bit further down the rabbit hole. While the first half of the book held my attention, the second half was disappointing. I think the story would have been better served by having more fiction to tell the story of Alice's adulthood. While I might enjoy another of this author's work, this story and material just ran its course rather than taking me on an adventure.
Cheya W. (Vernal, UT)
Loved Alice I Have Been
Melanie Benjamen's first book is a winner. Loved her writing and telling of Alice's story. There weren't a lot of facts left behind about Alice Liddell or Lewis Carroll but what facts there were led to a beautiful, sensitive and thoughtful story. I appreciated looking at life from Alice's perspective and enjoyed meeting the men in her life.
Elaine B. (franklin, MA)
The middle is missing
I look forward to Melanie Benjamin's 2nd book with great anticipation.
I liked the beginning of the book and the end, especially the servant and social information of the times. I was frustrated throughout by wondering what happened and if I would find out or get some idea. The transformation of Alice into a woman very much like her mother could have been fleshed out more in the middle of the book. Maybe since the possible sexual abuse by the man who wrote the well known book is talked about so much it detracts from the story.