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Therese X. (CALERA, AL)
Alice I Have Been
Alice Liddell Hargreaves, "the real Alice", and Lewis Carroll's model for his famous Alice in Wonderland, grew up in Oxford, England. Her father was Dean and friends with a Mr. Charles Dodgeson, resident math teacher who dabbled in early photography. Due to her beauty and free spirit, Dodgeson's early work contained many photos of Alice and occasionally her sisters. But the man who was to become Lewis Carroll felt a deep affection for young Alice which alarmed her mother and ended in estrangement. No one is certain why. In Alice I Have Been, the author presents in novel form the life of Alice, delving into the reasons behind the severance of this unusual friendship. From page one of the novel, narrated by Alice herself as she considers going to America to receive an honorary doctorate from Columbia University, the story pulls the reader through the both delightful and horrendous events of Alice’s life. The reader feels the story is truly biographical, it is written so seamlessly and emotionally charged without being saccharine or unbelievable. Going back in time with the real Alice is like going down a new rabbit hole with experiences following one upon the other until the final page of the imaginative roller coaster ride. A very enjoyable yet often poignant adventure story with a curious twist at the end.
Christine P. (Pleasanton, CA)
The relationship between Lewis Carroll and his muse, Alice Liddell, has always been shrouded in mystery. Their relationship, even from a modern point of view, seemed creepy and inappropriate. Alice was a child who was wise beyond her years and the photos he took have captured that look. Melanie Benjamin does an excellent job of blending the culture of the Victorian Age and what might have happened into a fascinating tale of the real Alice in Wonderland. We get to know who that woman was. Alice Liddell’s own mother described her as “reckless” but could she be better described as someone who found it hard to conform in such a restrictive society and that all Alice really wanted to do "was shape her own destiny". It makes the mystery even more intriguing!
Marie D. (Maplewood, New Jersey)
Alice: A strange little girl, a complicated woman
I have been stymied since reading this book trying to decide whether or not I liked it! My recollection of the Alice in Wonderland story was warm and endearing. Now, my head is filled with worry about what really did take place between Mr. Dodgson and Alice when she was 11 years old.
Cynthia B. (Puyallup, Washington)
Alice I Have Been
Ms.Benjamin does a superlative job of creating the social and cultural scene in Oxford, England in the mid-19th Century through the post World War I era. But, Alice's mother is almost a "Mommy dearest" character in the way she favors one child over another. Yet, Alice grows to emulate the very cold nature of her mother with her own children! Did something untoward really happen between Alice and Mr. Dodgson? If not, then many lives were damaged needlessly. I felt a little like Alice falling into a rabbit hole myself after reading this book! "Curiouser and curiouser, indeed."
This is a very thoughtful and remarkably well researched story - I was captured by Alice's narrative from the first page and remained engaged until the end. I was equally impressed by the afterword as well as Benjamin's website that takes you into the world of Alice, the Oxford campus as well as Charles Dodgson. A reading guide is reportedly in the works and I can see this book becoming a reading group favorite as a very highly discussable book.
Karla S. (Dana Point, CA)
Alice In Wonderland Indeed
"Alice I have Been" is Alice in Wonderland indeed. A little girl is living a charmed life and doesn't always sort fact from wishful thinking.
Anne G. (MS)
Sure To Be A Bestseller
This is a story of obsession, blackmail, rivalry, love...it runs the gamut of emotions. When Mr. Dodgsen tells a story to Alice and her sisters Alice begs him to write down "her story". Dodgsen becomes too familiar with Alice and the visits and friendship are stopped. Throughout her life Alice is reluctant to read "her story" as she is afraid of the person she will find. The author captures the scene and customs of Victorian England. This bittersweet novel will keep you turning the pages.
A multi-layered look at the life of the subject of Alice in Wonderland and that of its creator, Lewis Carroll. This is a book that will have readers thinking about Alice and Lewis Carroll long after they've closed the covers. Both were fascinating, if flawed, characters.
DawnEllen J. (Riverside, CA)
Reflections on Alice
Melanie Benjamin weaves historical anecdotes, her impressions gleaned from an art exhibit of Dodgson's photography, and her incredible imagination to take the reader on a journey beyond the looking glass into the reflections of “the real Alice.” Looking back over her 80 years as the most famous little girl in England, Alice Liddell Hargreaves struggles to come to terms with her relationship with Charles Dodgson and the story she urges him to write down for her. Benjamin skillfully captures the voice of Alice at each of three stages in her life and gives the reader no more information than Alice herself would have had or let herself acknowledge. The result is a highly engaging, very satisfying narrative adventure that sensitively and believably provides a richer perspective on this famous literary duo.
Mary Lou C. (Shenandoah Junction, WV)
Lewis Carroll, a Pedophile?
Although the author did a wonderful job of detailing life in Victorian England, I found the story difficult to follow, wondering what was real and what wasn't. The reader is to form his/her own conclusions as to what really happened. But I, for one, was uncomfortable with the evidence, or lack of. In the end, I had more questions than answers. I didn't get it.