Saturday, February 27, 2010

Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin

Publisher:  Delacorte Press, 2009
Pages:  351
Source:  Purchased

I have been fascinated with the Alice in Wonderland story since I was a small child.  We had a set of books that came with our Collier Encyclopedias.  My favorite was the blue-gray book number 5.  It was the one that had the wonderful story of Alice in Wonderland with all of the wonderful drawings in it.  When the book Alice I Have Been first hit the blogasphere I tried everything to win a copy.  I finally had to purchase one.  Although this is a book that falls into Historical Fiction and Fictional Autobiography the reader gets a sense of what it might have been like to have been Alice Liddell growing up in a Victorian time period.  For a lot of young girls and women of that time period ,life was a little suffocating.   Alice grew up in Oxford along with her sisters Ina and Edith, and her older brother Harry.  Her father was the Dean of Christ Church.  Alice never really felt like she fit in.  Her mother and governess constantly made remarks that re-inforced this feeling.  Ina, short for Lorina was three years older than Alice and was considered very lady-like at the young age of 10.  This naturally put her in everyones good graces.  Edith was two years younger than Alice and was considered very compliant.  She did whatever was asked of her, so eager to please.  She took up for Alice a lot and seemed to sense that Alice was the outsider and needed an ally at times.  I liked Alice immediately.  She was a child who was full of questions.  She would ask them whether they were considered lady-like or not.  I found this funny because you could tell from Ina's response that she wanted to know the answers herself, she was just too "lady-like" to ask.  The girls made the acquaintance of Mr. Dodgson a math professor.  He would often take them on walks and tell them stories where they "the three little princesses" were the main characters.  He took quite a liking to Alice and when she asked him to start writing the stories down he did so.  Thus we have the stories of Alice in Wonderland.  This book is full of heartache as well.  We learn of the loss of  her sister Edith, the one person in the family that she felt she had an alliance with, and her first true love Leo. 
Alice I Have Been is full of love, want, and conflict.  She tells her story from the time she is a child to the time she marries and has children of her own.  She shares the story she has so carefully hidden with her children and the reader.  The character of Charles Dodgson aka  Lewis Carroll  is somewhat portrayed as a pedophile.  The reader is never outright told if this is fact or not.  The fact is that at some point in their life the mother broke ties with Dodgson for whatever reason.  I don't usually read books more than once.  This is one I have already read twice and will sit it on my shelf to do so again and again.  I look forward to sharing this book with friends and family throughout the years as I believe this to be a really great book.  Whether it is all true or not, it leads the reader to want to do research of their own to find out more, to answer the questions that were left unanswered.


  1. I love Alice too. This sounds great. I didn't realize it was historical fiction. I'm going to add it to my list. Thanks.

  2. Charles Dodgson was NOT C.S. Lewis; he was Lewis Carroll. And he was probably not a pedophile, although no one can know that for sure.