Few works of literature are as universally beloved as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Now, in this spellbinding historical novel, we meet the young girl whose bright spirit sent her on an unforgettable trip down the rabbit hole–and the grown woman whose story is no less enthralling.
But oh my dear, I am tired of being Alice in Wonderland. Does it sound ungrateful?
Alice Liddell Hargreaves’s life has been a richly woven tapestry: As a young woman, wife, mother, and widow, she’s experienced intense passion, great privilege, and greater tragedy. But as she nears her eighty-first birthday, she knows that, to the world around her, she is and will always be only “Alice.” Her life was permanently dog-eared at one fateful moment in her tenth year–the golden summer day she urged a grown-up friend to write down one of his fanciful stories.
(Synopsis and image via Goodreads)
Why, then, did I always feel as if his happiness was my responsibility? It wasn’t fair for him to burden me with that. It had never been fair.
I read Alice I Have Been with mixed emotions. As a child, I wasn’t fond of Alice in Wonderland. Something about its too fantastical characters frightened me and left me dreaming odd dreams. Yet, when I came across Alice I Have Been, something pulled at my adult reading mind and said, “Read me.”
The toss of emotions has nothing to do with Melanie Benjamin’s writing style or her characterizations. As well, her grasp of the Victorian period, its traditions and mores, and its staid society is honest and well-researched.
What troubled me was the revelation of the story behind Alice Liddell and Mr. Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll). Though never confirmed, the hint of impropriety existed and my research never proved anything more than a loving friendship. By the end of her writing, Melanie Benjamin casts it all in the shadow of forbidden love.
I believe it took a great deal of courage as a writer to delve into the mysteries surrounding the relationship between Liddell family and Mr. Dodgson. It is obvious from the detail, the plot construction, and the exquisite writing that Ms. Benjamin wrote this story from her heart.
Alice Liddell was drawn so that I wanted to be with this child and enjoy her happiness and innocence. Yet, the core of the story, or that alluded to, is difficult to read. The emotions surrounding this story are well drawn and speak loudly to those who may have lived similar experiences or for those never experiencing them, it is to live them through this book.
Another great historical fiction read to recommend to you. I would advise caution in allowing pre-teens or middle-grade children reading Alice I Have Been simply because of its painful and often confusing subject. Even hints may affect decisions made by this age group. Otherwise, it is an excellent example of historical writing at its best. If you check Goodreads and/or Amazon reviews, you will note I only gave this work 4 stars. I would have liked to give it 5, but for the emotional difficulties in reading it.
Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin
Published: December 9, 2009
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Genre: Fiction / Literary / Adult / Historical
Edition: Kindle edition, 368 pages
Meet the Author:
Melanie Benjamin is the author of the New York Times bestselling novel, THE AVIATOR’S WIFE, as well as the national bestseller ALICE I HAVE BEEN, and THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MRS. TOM THUMB. THE SWANS OF FIFTH AVENUE, a novel about Truman Capote and his high society “Swans,” will be out in January 2016. She lives in the Chicago area with her husband and two sons. She’s currently at work on her next historical novel.
(Image via Melanie Benjamin website and taken by Deborah Feingold; bio via Goodreads)