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Barbara E. (rockville, MD)
Not so innocent Alice?
I really loved this book. The author grabbed my attention from page 1 and held it until the end. Her writing is lyrical and evocative, especially in the sections dealing with the very young Alice. The author is so perceptive about a young girl on cusp of adolescence and the thrills and fears and confusion that she goes through as she experiences her first crush and wants to grow up but is reluctant to leave innocence and childhood behind. The bewildering array of emotions that this very young Alice experienced ranging from happiness to discomfort to deep sorrow are wonderfully evoked. All of the Alices presented in this book have distinctive voices and personalities that ring true.
Carole C. (Upper Marlboro, MD)
This Side of the Looking Glass
There is much here for book club discussion, especially the issue of Dodgson's attachment to little girls. Was it innocent? Is the discomfort experienced looking at his photos and reading his books carefully a product of our 21st-century sensibilities or does it transcend time and place?
I highly recommend this book.
In the author's note following "Alice I Have Been," Melanie Benjamin recalls a Chicago exhibit of "Dreaming in Pictures: The Photography of Lewis Carroll." There she saw the photograph of seven-year-old Alice Liddell -- a child scantily clad in gypsy-like rags whose eyes were worldly, wise, and those of a woman. Haunted by that photo and intrigued by the girl/woman who had inspired "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland," Benjamin thought she had a story. With the added mystery of an abrupt end of a long-term friendship between the Rev. Charles Dodgson (the real name of Lewis Carroll) and the Liddell family in 1863, when he was thirty-one and Alice eleven, she knew she had a story.
Doreen P. (Hamilton, MT)
Alice I Have Been
Weaving fact and fiction, Benjamin produces the rich tapestry that was Alice Pleasance Liddell Hargreaves' life. Told in the first person by eighty-year-old Alice, the story of her life unfolds -- from the days of childhood wonder in Oxford through courtship with a prince; from marriage and motherhood to war, loss, and grief; from wealth to genteel poverty and deliverance; from resenting being "the Alice" to extolling "Alice I am, Alice I will be. Alice I have been."
Masterfully written, this "Victorian" novel will satisfy not only those who have been charmed by "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" but any reader who enjoys history, mystery, and a journey through life's vagaries with a heroine whose admonition, borrowed from Lewis Carroll, is "May we be happy."
I simply loved this book! The author effectively weaves a fictional tale based on factual historical information and creates a wonderful and very believable account of what may have happened to the real Alice in Wonderland. I found the historical information fascinating and it made me want to do more research into the lives of both Alice Liddell and the Rev. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll.
Barbara H. (Alexandria, VA)
Alice was in Wonderland
Although Lewis Carroll bordered on pedophilia, I believe that he never crossed the line by actually committing any lewd acts against children. This book reinforces that belief. The author never resorts to far fetched or unreasonable antics in portraying the characters, and always stays true to the Victorian setting.
Alice In Wonderland has always been one of my favorite childhood books. I never knew the facts about Lewis Carroll or who he based his stories on. Now I do! This book also made me want to re-read Alice In Wonderland with a fresh viewpoint.
Alice I Have Been is a fascinating study of human nature during the late19th and early 20th centuries and is well written, especially as a first book.
Harriette K. (Northbrook, IL)
Alice I Have Been
Written in 3 parts, the book follows Alice’s life from her childhood friendship with Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) to her unwilling but necessary foray into literary fame in her later years. Melanie Benjamin uses the few facts that are known about Alice to craft a story that is heart breaking.
Throughout the entire narrative, from childhood to late adulthood, Alice is genuine and believable.
Alice I Have Been is a novel that stands on its own, for at its core it is simply a moving story of a life blighted by the scrutiny of others. It is more than a story of a young woman famous for her relationship with an older man. The author has brought Alice to life.
I recommend it as a good read but be cautious and do not accept it as truth but only as fiction.
At the age of 80, the "real Alice" of Alice in Wonderland looks back on her life and the unusual friendship she shared with the author, Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll). She recounts their visits, his photographing her and his telling of stories to amuse her and her two sisters. Those stories become the world famous Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-glass.
Diane R. (Munger, MI)
A Page Turner with Alice..
Although this is a work of fiction, Melanie Benjamin has researched the times and the events extremely well. For those who love to "Google", it is a pleasure to find the story so close to the facts. What our author has done is flesh out the characters and give a fine insight into Victorian times and the manners of the upper middle-class.
On finishing the book, I immediately went to my book cases to find my old copy of Alice in Wonderland, hoping to find hidden messages about the very unusual friendship.
We walk with Alice through childhood as she encounters sibling rivalry, Mr Dodgson a very mysterious predator of young girls, his friend who was jealous of him, a very sad death of someone who was loved so much by Alice. The story starts at the cradle of Alice's life and follows her till she is in her golden years.She never really faces the ghost that haunts her from childhood to her end years. After a very full life with sorrows and joys she finally faces her ghost of the unknown memory she has blocked for 70 years. The story ends too soon for me.
Dorothy T. (Victorville, CA)
An Enjoyable Read
Melanie Benjamin had some unanswered and even controversial issues to deal with when she took on the life story of Alice Liddell Hargreaves, including her relationship with Charles Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll, author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which was inspired by Alice as a young girl. Because fiction is the medium she chooses, the author is able to take a well-reasoned stand on these issues and gives her readers answers in absence of missing facts (I personally like her version). She does so with a gift that makes this an enjoyable read.
Mary O. (Boston, MA)
Alice fact or fiction?
Although the second section almost seems to sink into the realm of the romance novel, even to the point of melodrama, the first and third sections ring with mystery and the emotion of family dynamics and Alice’s personal inner journey. The first section is filled with wonderful descriptions of life in Victorian England: childhood, fashion, society functions, and the social and moral expectations of the time.
When I picked up 'Alice I have been", I feared I would not be engrossed in the story and would be disappointed. Instead, I found the book immensely readable and I was hooked from page 1! It made me want to read "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" again. Who was Alice? Was she tired of living with the "Alice I have been" or was she always that Alice? Ironically as her life plays on from childhood through her elderly years, you see how her fate was sealed at age 10 and her life then changed forever by her actions and choices. Clearly she is haunted by being "Alice" for the rest of her life and life beyond the rabbit hole was just as fascinating, traumatic and adventuresome as the storybook tale. "Alice I have been" blends fact and fiction in a tale about the "real person" who inspired Lewis Carroll. Who is the REAL Alice is left to the power of human imagination.