Reviewed by Elizabeth T.
Have you ever wondered about the little girl who was the inspiration behind Alice in Wonderland? Her name was Alice Liddell and she grew up in Victorian England. Melanie Benjamin took the facts and figures from Alice’s life and intertwined them with fiction, creating a unique story. The narrative followed Alice throughout her life, including her childhood relationship with Charles Dodgson (also known as Lewis Carroll) and the mysterious end of their friendship.
I really enjoyed Alice I Have Been. One of the most interesting aspects was the transformation of Alice at each stage of her life. Victorian England was an extremely hard era for any child to grow up in. The society was very restrictive and bound by expectations, which were not conducive to a precocious and imaginative young girl. Alice was the kind of a wild child that her parents constantly had to rein in. Her friendship with Dodgson was organic because he was the only adult who really took her seriously and listened to what she had to say. The breach in the friendship goes unexplained until the very end of the novel. It was hinted at and danced around, but never definitely answered, which created mystery and compelled me to read on.
As a child, Alice wanted Charles Dodgson to write down the story that would become Alice in Wonderland because it made her feel special. Throughout the rest of her life, the novel held her rooted in the past, with the memories associated with it and the expectations and vision of her that other people had because of it. As an adult, she matured and learned to come to grips with the literary version of herself. The entire narrative, from childhood to late adulthood, is completely genuine and believable.
The mixture of fact and fiction really made this novel special. The photos Charles Dodgson took that are talked about in the book actually existed. All the people in Alice’s life were real people. This gave the novel an extra layer that piqued my interest and made me so curious that I looked up the figures, photos, or facts on the internet. Following the story, there was an afterword by the author that revealed the motivation behind writing the novel and separated the facts from speculation.
Alice I Have Been is very beautifully written and plunges the reader into the world of the real Alice. The story is genuine and had me so emotionally invested that it brought tears to my eyes on more than one occasion. I would definitely encourage anyone to read it.
Elizabeth is a student at Cal State Long Beach. She laughs a lot, loves cats, and lives for music and books. You can visit her blog at http://titania86-fishmuffins.blogspot.com/.
Please visit Melanie Benjamin’s website and follow along on her blog tour.