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The Real Alice in Wonderland: A Role Model…
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The Real Alice in Wonderland: A Role Model for the Ages (2010)

by C.M. Rubin

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Memo from the Vatican to the authors: Alice Pleasance Liddell Hargreaves is not a candidate for sainthood.

This is a beautiful publication concerning the life of Alice Pleasance Liddell, later Hargreaves, who certainly inspired Alice in Wonderland. But the blurbs give the impression that this is a biography. And it isn't. Not even close.

There is a desperate need for a good modern biography of Alice. I know of five biographies of her, including a relatively recent one by the great Alice scholar Morton Cohen -- but all, as of this writing, are out of print. The best available source for information on Alice, right now, is probably Cohen's biography of Charles Dodgson. But that devotes only a little attention to her post-Carroll life.

So when I saw this book advertised, I was quite excited. Then it showed up....

For starters, there is very little text. I read it in less than an hour, and that's with a lot of time spent examining the pictures. There is almost nothing about Alice's birth. Her illustrious ancestors are mentioned but not traced. There is little about how her family came to Oxford. There is nothing about her childhood. Her adult life is mostly glossed over -- a little about her marriage, and one possible suitor whose name I had not previously encountered, but about fifty years are covered in a handful of mostly-blank pages.

As for the question of her relationship with Dodgson, that's largely ignored. So is Dodgson's patent autism, and the relationship with other girls. There is no mention of the page in Dodgson's diaries which was cut out by his relatives because it (presumably) detailed exactly why Dodgson and the Liddells became estranged. Nor do we see the depression which Dodgson suffered after that, or his desperate attempts to rebuild the relationship. This lies at the heart of the Alice story, because Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass were both written after the estrangement -- and probably in part as an attempt to end it.

What detail there is is deceptive. Alice was not four when she first met Dodgson; she was not quite four. As far as we know, she did not attempt contact with him after the estrangement; all their contacts were at his request. Yes, she remembered him fondly seventy years later -- by which time it was to her financial advantage to do so.

And she wasn't a saint. She is said to have been quite strict toward her inferiors. One wonders if this might not be the result of the psychological scars of losing such a beloved friend at an early age.

To be sure, she was highly intelligent (almost certainly one of the reasons Dodgson liked her). Intellectually, she was brilliant, and it is a medium-sized tragedy that Victorian society largely prevented her from revealing that brilliance. Had she been born a half a century later, she, and not Margaret Thatcher, might have been the first female British Prime Minister. She was that intelligent, that determined, and that creative. It would have been much better to show that side of her rather than this cardboard creature of charities and other people's memories.

The one redeeming feature of the book is the art. There are images of one of Alice's sketches, five of her paintings, and one carved door that is her work. These are hard to find elsewhere. I would, frankly, have liked to see more of her sketches; this seems to me to have been her best medium. There are also a couple of photos of Alice I haven't seen elsewhere (not by Dodgson). There are also photos of places where she lived. There are a few glitches (e.g. the photo on page 7 has been reversed, as has one of Julia Margaret Cameron's). And who cares about modern recreations of Alice characters? The "other" "real Alice" was Isa Bowman, a friend of Dodgson's who played the role on stage -- and she is neither mentioned nor pictured; instead we as shown later cartoon Alices. Still, the illustrations are the saving grace of the book. I gave this book two and a half stars. That's based on one and a half for the text and three and a half for the art. If you want images of Alice Hargreaves, this is a fine place to start. If you want a biography -- better start haunting used bookstores. Because this isn't one. ( )
  waltzmn | Dec 14, 2012 |
Alice Pleasance Liddell inspired what is considered today to be the greatest children’s story of all time – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Although completely charming, it is not the real story of Alice. THE REAL ALICE IN WONDERLAND – a book by C.M. Rubin and Gabriella Rubin shares the story of Alice with a magnificent treasure chest of images, art and prose which tells the dramatic saga of a very creative, curious, and magnetic young girl who grew up to become a cultural icon. Alice was only four when she met Dodgson, who later became Lewis Carroll, 10 when he began to write her adventure and 12 when he delivered her a hand written, hand illustrated manuscript that would become a classic. This book is a story of love, tragedy, duty, courage and loyalty to family and country – that will not only surprise you, will deeply move you.

Lovely coffee table sized book full of wonderful photographs and illustrations.

Enjoy ( )
  HulaMonkey | Jun 30, 2010 |
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The Real Alice In Wonderland
is dedicated to all those who guide, influence, and
inspire the minds and souls of human beings.
-- C. M. Rubin

I dedicate this book to the Real Alice in Wonderland in my life.

 To the Real Alice in Wonderland in my life:
My daughter, Gabriella Rose Robin
C. M. Rubin
 
To the Real Alice in Wonderland in my life:
My mother, C. M. Rubin
Gabriella Rose Rubin
First words
"Would You Like a Little More Tea?"
I grew up hearing my grandmother's stories about Alice, the aunt of my great aunt Phil, but I really knew very little of her heritage or why her association with Lewis Carroll's story was even important or relevant
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