Thursday

Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin

Did you know Alice - the inspiration for Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - was a real girl? I sure didn't - so I was pleasantly surprised to not only learn of her existence but to also learn some details of her life.

For starters let's make it clear, this is a work of fiction. Ms. Benjamin clearly states that she did her research and used a lot of these details throughout the novel (names, places, years, etc.) But there were several instances throughout Alice's life that she did enhance and thus where we get the fiction part.

Alice Pleasance Liddell Hargreaves meets Mr. Charles Dodgson at a very young age. Alice's father was the Dean of Christ Church and he resided with his family including their young daughters at Oxford. Mr. Dodgson (who writes as Lewis Carrol) was a mathematics professor at the university and was fascinated by the three young Liddell girls. He would constantly seek the girls out to photograph them, take them on outings (whether it be fishing, picnic-ing or just to enjoy the weather) or to tell them stories.

This is Alice's story - her childhood, her friendship with Mr. Dodgson, being Alice - the little girl in the book, her love's, loss's, her life. Alice is the narrator and the story is mostly told at three different stages throughout her life - we begin with her being in her 80's and then travel back in time to Victorian Oxford when she is a young girl, and then later on in her life when she is in her mid-40's.
I can't even describe how fascinated I became with this story. It was so vividly detailed - I could envision Alice and her sister's, all dressed the same, with their white, muslin dresses, holding hands, strolling down the street on their way to Mr. Dodgson's in the hope of an adventure. I don't know what it was - whether the time the story is set in, Alice's friendship with the lonely, stammering Dodgson (which on more than one occasion made me feel slightly uncomfortable - since it bordered on pedophilia), the mystery of the abrupt end to that friendship, or the innocence of Alice's narration; but in the end, this was one of those books that I had a really hard time putting down.

Ultimately, you will feel haunted by Ms. Benjamin's novel about love, loss and heartbreak. If you're anything like me, you will be Googling left and right trying to acquire your own set of facts and you will become (once again - since I've always been a little crazy over her) obsessed with Alice and will want to grab your own copy of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and read, or re-read it in some cases, just to reacquaint yourself with the magical tale of a little girl that will always be immortalized in youth.

I can't recommend this enough.

14 comments:

Ann Elle Altman said...

I didn't know that but now, I want to read the book. I assume she never went down the rabbit hole. I also love the cover. I want to go order it now.

Thanks for the recommend.

ann

Angela said...

I keep hearing such wonderful things about this book and it definitely sounds like one I would really enjoy reading. But then, as you said, I would totally want to research the real Alice. It is on the list though :-)

Emidy said...

I actually did know that she was based on a real girl, thanks to my photography class! We were watching a video on the history of photography and it showed a picture of Alice. Up until that point, I only thought of her as a purely fictional character. I'll have to check this book out!

Emidy
Une Parole

Kailana said...

I am reading looking forward to this. I have it out from the library at the moment

SB said...

what a timely review and well done. This certainly looks like a read I should consider!

Jenny said...

Wonderful review!! (Is that a picture of the girl it was based on? Interesting that she has dark hair but all the movies depict her as a blonde).

I have this book on my TBR and now I reallllly want to read it. BUT, would you recommend re-reading Alice in Wonderland first (it's been years and years so it will almost be like a first read) or should I wait and read it after?

kay - Infinite Shelf said...

I've heard only good about this book, and I can't wait for it to be home (ordered it last week!). Great review!

Nina said...

Great review. I have read some other reviews for the book and they where all very positive. It sounds like a fantastic book.

Nely said...

Jenny - Yes, that is a picture of the real Alice dressed as a gypsy girl. There's a big part in the book related to this one picture and how it came to be. The picture can be found in the book as well as two other pictures of Alice later in life - they coincide with the time frames of her life you are reading. They mention how she was written as a blonde but you never get the why?... still something to ponder I guess.

I personally have never read Alice's Adventures in Wonderland although I just purchased a copy and plan on reading it now. I would recommend you read Alice I Have Been firs though because you get a somewhat realistic view of who some of the characters in the classic were in real life.

♥Nely

Jenny said...

Thanks! Yeah, I think I'll read Alice I Have Been first. Plus maybe that will renew my interest in reading the actual book. Hopefully I get around to this prior to March when the new movie comes out, lol!!

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

oooo thanks for the glowing review :)

miss cindy :) said...

This sounds like a really great book to read, and I am glad you pointed it out. I will definitely be addin git to my list. Great review :)

April said...

I loved Alice I Have Been! It was so fantastic. :-)

Glad to see you enjoyed it too!

justicejenniferreads said...

Great review. This sounds like a really interesting read. I love books that tell about other books and take you back in time. So cool. Definitely adding it to my TBR list.

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