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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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1,0461198,057 (3.74)57
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

Recently added byprivate library, Coleen, ShyPageSniffer, kitber, coralie23, texanne, Leselinchen, MarieTea
  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)
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    The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters (Anonymous user)
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    The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor (Anonymous user, BookshelfMonstrosity)
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    White Stone: The Alice Poems by Stephanie Bolster (BookshelfMonstrosity)
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» See also 57 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 120 (next | show all)
It is supposedly the true story of the life of the “real” Alice in Wonderland. I thought the book was interesting, although I found its pace very slow. I think fans of historical fiction would find it a good read.
It does have some interesting themes ... touches on everything from pedophiles, class distinction and the first world war, but does not explore any of them thoroughly enough to make it a good subplot for the book.
Not a waste of time if you like period books but not one of my faves so far this year. ( )
  ChristineEllei | Jul 14, 2015 |
Reseña pendiente. ( )
  LaMala | Jul 8, 2015 |
Alice Pleasance Liddell Hargreaves never chose to be "The Real Alice." I have to suspect, though, that she would have preferred what really happened over what is described in this book. At least what really happened was, well, real.

Disclaimer: I am autistic, and I don't understand why anyone would bother with an historical novel when there are actual facts to gather. Having read sixteen actual scholarly volumes about Charles Dodgson, this is the first novel I've read on the subject.

But the fact that I'm autistic is relevant, because the evidence is strong that Dodgson was autistic also --although he, of course, had never even heard of the condition, which had not been described in his lifetime. But it is the autism that explains the story of Dodgson and Alice. Or, rather, it does not explain what happened on that horrid day in 1863 that cost Dodgson so deeply; we will never know that. But it does explain why he went on to publish Alice's book, and the many years of depression he suffered, and the years he spent trying to win back her friendship.

Part of the problem is just the general air of non-historicality about this book. The narrator of Alice I Have Been is clearly not a woman brought up in upper class circumstances in Victorian England. She isn't. To take just one minor example, on p. 226 we encounter the phrase "Fess up." This phrase is attested in England -- now. But it is an Americanism (first found in the 1840s), and remained colloquial long after the time it is used in the book. There are many similar instances -- such as an indirect allusion to A. E. Housman's poetry (p. 157) before Housman wrote it!

And there are factual errors. Through the Looking Glass is dedicated to Alice Liddell, but Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, contrary to p. 165, is properly dedicated to all of the "Cruel Three" -- Lorina, Alice, and Edith Liddell. It is only later that Charles Dodgson seems to have concentrated all his attention on Alice. And while author Benjamin admits to having redated Dodgson's last photo of Alice, she doesn't seem to have noticed that the photo set involved Lorina Liddell the younger, not Lorina the older. And on page 223, the mother is reported to have regarded Alice as not good enough to marry royalty. But Mother Liddell was known as "the Kingfisher" because of her attempts to snag the best husbands she could! And that "secret" photo of "The Beggar Child" -- it was no secret; a contemporary called it the most beautiful photograph ever taken!

Being autistic, I want to keep listing all the places where this book departs from reality. Suffice it to say that there are many. But there is at least one that people who read the book should be aware of: In my edition at least, there is a photo preceding chapter seven of Alice Liddell as a young woman. The implication is that it is Dodgson's last photo of her. But it isn't; that photo is by Julia Margaret Cameron (and, frankly, it doesn't look much like the Alice we see in other photos of this period).

So what really did happen between Dodgson and Alice? It seems pretty clear that Dodgson felt an extremely intense friendship toward the girl young enough to be his daughter -- many people with autism have such friendships. (I know, because I do -- and I've suffered some of the same punishments as Dodgson suffered.) It isn't quite like being in love, but because normal people don't feel these sorts of friendships, it looked like it to others. At some point, he made a gaffe (one scholar speculated that Alice once made a joke about wanting to marry "Uncle Charles," and he didn't deny it fast enough, although I think it more likely that he had an autistic meltdown). The situation escalated, as conflicts involving people with autism often do, and eventually he was exiled from the Liddell family. He never ceased trying, incompetently, to win them back, because that's what people with autism do. But it broke his creativity for many years; it wasn't until he met Gertrude Chataway that he was able to produce The Hunting of the Snark, and that really was his last hurrah.

Is this a good novel? I haven't the skills to tell. I can categorically state that it is not good history. For those who want to find out something more reliable, there are two significant books about Alice (not just one, as Benjamin implies in her afterword): The Real Alice, by Anne Clark (which is, however, much too pro-Dodgson) and Beyond the Looking Glass: Reflections of Alice and Her Family, by Colin Gordon. The best biography of Dodgson is still probably Morton N. Cohen's Lewis Carroll: A Biography, although it is too kind to Dodgson and a little out-of-date (we have yet to see a biography based on the recognition of Dodgson's autism, although the evidence is very strong).

Alice Liddell was a genuinely fascinating woman in her own right. Someday, someone will truly write her story. ( )
1 vote waltzmn | Jun 6, 2015 |
This is an interesting historical account of the life of the young girl who inspired the Alice in Wonderland stories.

The writing is lovely and the plot is fascinating even if it does, at times, run to the melodramatic and maudlin. All in all, it is a compelling and fully worthwhile narrative about the haunting mistakes of childhood and the magic of the everyday. It is a story about love, betrayal and enduring family ties. ( )
  Juva | Mar 21, 2015 |
So far I'm enjoying this book. ( )
  walksaloneatnight | Feb 24, 2015 |
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Dedication
To Nic, for leading me to the Rabbit Hole
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But oh my dear, I am tired of being Alice in Wonderland. Does it sound ungrateful? It is. Only I do get tired.
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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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