Review: Alice I Have Been

25 May

The lovely Ashley invited me to be a part of the Slowreaders Forum earlier this year. The premise is simple: love books, read books, discuss books. I joined just in time to vote on the next book: Alice I Have Been, by Melanie Benjamin.

Synopsis of the book from Publisher’s Weekly, as seen on Amazon:

Benjamin draws on one of the most enduring relationships in children’s literature in her excellent debut, spinning out the heartbreaking story of Alice from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Her research into the lives of Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) and the family of Alice Liddell is apparent as she takes circumstances shrouded in mystery and colors in the spaces to reveal a vibrant and passionate Alice. Born into a Victorian family of privilege, free-spirited Alice catches the attention of family friend Dodgson and serves as the muse for both his photography and writing. Their bond, however, is misunderstood by Alice’s family, and though she is forced to sever their friendship, she is forever haunted by their connection as her life becomes something of a chain of heartbreaks. As an adult, Alice tries to escape her past, but it is only when she finally embraces it that she truly finds the happiness that eluded her. Focusing on three eras in Alice’s life, Benjamin offers a finely wrought portrait of Alice that seamlessly blends fact with fiction. 

At first I was apprehensive as I’m not usually a huge fan of historical fiction but this book changed all my views of historical fiction. It’s not soley about facts and truths but about what went on behind the scenes, what caused the facts that we know to be true. This is when the author takes creative license and liberty since we have no idea what really happened between Dodgson and the Liddell family. Benjamin carefully weaves friendship and passion, responsibility and expectations, preconceived notions and the truth throughout the course of this book. Benjamin is brave in this novel; Dodgson’s character borders on being an utter creep (old dude who enjoys taking pictures of young women) yet at times he seems like a sweet doting uncle.

I walked away from this book with a better understanding of the expectations of a woman during the Victoria era in all senses: fashion, family responsibility, education, recreation, love and romance in the Victorian era. I laughed. I cried. I turned the pages of this book into the wee hours of the night, took this book everywhere I went and have it now stored safely and proudly on my bookshelves. This is one I definitely want to read again, perhaps after reading the works of Lewis Carroll.

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9 Responses to “Review: Alice I Have Been”

  1. mandy May 25, 2010 at 8:05 am #

    I really need to read this. I think I added it to my good reads tbr list, must check on that. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Lisa from Lisa's Yarns May 25, 2010 at 8:42 am #

    I also added thsi to my TBR list. I don’t read historical fiction very often, but when I do I always enjoy it so I really should read it more often. Hopefully I can get to this book this summer!

  3. ria May 25, 2010 at 8:45 am #

    i have this on my list of to-reads. i can’t wait to read it. i also want to read more of lewis carroll’s work.

  4. jen May 25, 2010 at 9:40 am #

    i am so reading this!!!!

  5. butterflycharlie May 25, 2010 at 9:46 am #

    I’ve never heard of this book before but it sounds really interesting. I’ll have to look it up

  6. Maddy May 25, 2010 at 1:56 pm #

    I had a similar reaction to the novel. I never read Carroll’s work prior to this, but after reading this novel, I’m even more interested in picking up his books.

  7. Emily Jane May 25, 2010 at 3:20 pm #

    I don’t have a huge amount of experience with historical fiction but I do have a favourite: Umberto Eco’s “The Name of the Rose”. I think it was made into a movie which lacked all the excitement and passion the book had had – but I remember reading it and getting absolutely lost in a medieval monastery, totally thrilled by the murder mystery (with monks! How can you go wrong!), and totally wowed at the surprise twist. If you’re thinking about getting more into historical fiction I was definitely recommend it (if you haven’t read it already!)

  8. Veronica May 26, 2010 at 12:46 am #

    One of my favorite historical fictions is Zoya by Danielle Steel (surprise surprise). It follows a Duchess right before and after the fall of the Romanov empire in Russia.

  9. brittany June 8, 2010 at 1:30 am #

    i hadn’t read alice in wonderland either. i bought the new clothbound penguin classic version the same time as this book so i plan on reading it next. i really enjoyed this book. very intriguing. i’ve been thinking about it ever since i finished!

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