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Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin
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Alice I Have Been (edition 2010)

by Melanie Benjamin

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1,2581376,290 (3.71)61
Member:nyiper
Title:Alice I Have Been
Authors:Melanie Benjamin
Info:Delacorte Press (2010), Mass Market Paperback, 304 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***1/2
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Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin

  1. 10
    Still She Haunts Me by Katie Roiphe (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: These historical novels blend fact and fiction to re-imagine the life of Alice Pleasance Liddell, who inspired Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Both books speculate about the nature of Liddell's relationship with Carroll, but Katie Roiphe's is darker in tone.… (more)
  2. 10
    Automated Alice by Jeff Noon (kraaivrouw)
  3. 00
    Princess Alyss of Wonderland by Frank Beddor (BookshelfMonstrosity)
  4. 00
    The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters (Anonymous user)
  5. 00
    The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor (Anonymous user, BookshelfMonstrosity)
  6. 00
    White Stone: The Alice Poems (Signal Editions Poetry Series) by Stephanie Bolster (BookshelfMonstrosity)
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Melanie Benjamin's ALICE I HAVE BEEN is a fictionalized account of the life of Alice Liddell Hargreaves, the real "Alice" behind Lewis Carroll's (aka Charles Dodgson) ALICE IN WONDERLAND. The real nature of the relationship between the child Alice and the Oxford Don Charles Dodgson is a one-hundred and fifty-year old mystery. Until Alice was eleven years old, Dodgson was a frequent visitor at her household and would often take Alice and her sisters on outings. Then there was a mysterious break. The facts are sketchy, and the true nature of this break has been speculated upon ever since by historians and biographers. The explanations range from the innocent to the chilling.

Benjamin gives us a fictionalized first person account based on her speculation after researching the scant known facts. I don't think I'm giving anything away when I state that her choice is a reasonable middle ground between the more benign and salacious extremes. Other fictionalizations have taken more polarizing approaches; I personally found Katie Roiphe's STILL SHE HAUNTS ME to be horrifying, if just as likely true. Benjamin's version, however, has a certain ring of truth to it, perhaps because she gives Alice a voice that seems to fit the girl in the Carroll stories.

Benjamin's Alice begins as a Victorian age child of privilege with a precocious attitude ill fitted to the age. She grows into a Victorian matron still chafing at her boundaries. Still, this Alice is firmly a product of her time and class and it can take some getting used to for a modern reader. The adult Alice will be smothering under the layers of restrictions a woman had to endure at the time, then turn around and complain about the servants getting above their station. It can be off-putting, but Benjamin does such a good job of ensconcing Alice in her time and place that the reader can understand the mindset. I know I never had a moment when I felt the privilege Alice enjoyed came even close to making up for the humiliating limitations of the role she was trapped in. And Alice's voice rang true to the little girl we know, except the bizarre Wonderland is replaced with the equally eccentric Victorian age.

Unlike the stories, there is ultimately no way out for this Alice. For all the privilege, her life was a hard one beset by tragedy. Oddly, the tragedies involving life and death aren't the ones that seem the most hurtful. The less lethal but more unfair tragedies are the most painful to witness, and it is without question that the adult Alice suffered for whatever it was that happened between her and Dodgson when she was a child. That a child victim was seen as marked is outrageous to a modern sensibility, and it boils the blood as a reader. Benjamin does a masterful job of making this point; whether the mysterious incident was innocent or severe, innocent Alice was marked by it for life. As for Dodgson, we'll never really know if he was a perpetrator who escaped sufficient punishment, or an innocent victim of the times like Alice herself. One way or another, this is a must read for Wonderland addicts. ( )
  AugustvonOrth | Apr 20, 2017 |
A beautifully written and compelling book but fatally flawed, in my opinion, for perpetuating the Lolita-esque myth that young girls are manipulative and cunning sexual provocateurs. It's problematic on so many levels, utterly unbelievable, and disappointingly predictable. Still, the story was absorbing enough in other ways that I was sufficiently motivated to see it through to its end. ( )
  dldbizacct | Apr 6, 2017 |
*withholding rating till after my book club meeting on 6/14 ( )
  janb37 | Feb 13, 2017 |
Another great book by this author!
( )
  Iambookish | Dec 14, 2016 |
A look at the relationship between the young girl who inspired Alice in Wonderland and the author. Victorian morals or perversion? I never did decide, but the feeling of somethings bad coming permeated the book, making it hard to read and impossible to put down. ( )
  busyreadin | Jul 4, 2016 |
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Epigraph
Dedication
To Nic, for leading me to the Rabbit Hole
First words
But oh my dear, I am tired of being Alice in Wonderland. Does it sound ungrateful? It is. Only I do get tired.
Quotations
I suppose, at some point, we all have to decide which memories--real or otherwise--to hold on to, and which ones to let go.
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Book description
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.

That story, a wild tale of rabbits, queens, and a precocious young child, becomes a sensation the world over. Its author, a shy, stuttering Oxford professor, does more than immortalize Alice–he changes her life forever. But even he cannot stop time, as much as he might like to. And as Alice’s childhood slips away, a peacetime of glittering balls and royal romances gives way to the urgent tide of war.

For Alice, the stakes could not be higher, for she is the mother of three grown sons, soldiers all. Yet even as she stands to lose everything she treasures, one part of her will always be the determined, undaunted Alice of the story, who discovered that life beyond the rabbit hole was an astonishing journey.

A love story and a literary mystery, Alice I Have Been brilliantly blends fact and fiction to capture the passionate spirit of a woman who was truly worthy of her fictional alter ego, in a world as captivating as the Wonderland only she could inspire.
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Now in her twilight years, Alice Liddell looks back on a remarkable life. From a pampered childhood in Oxford to difficult years as a widowed mother, Alice examines how she became who she is--and how she became immortalized as Alice in Wonderland.

(summary from another edition)

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