Thursday, February 25, 2010

Book Review: Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin


Synopsis: (From the Publisher)
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.  

My Review:

"But oh my dear, I am tired of being Alice in Wonderland. Does it sound ungrateful?"... So begins the tale of Alice Liddell, the girl behind the beloved classic Alice's Adventures in Wonderland; but what caused her to want to escape Wonderland and why, when every other girl dreams of being Alice from Wonderland, did she have no desire to be that Alice? In Melanie Benjamin's captivating novel, Alice I Have Been, we hear a side of the story never told; a side that takes you beyond Wonderland and into the real world of a girl longing for love and desperate to live every moment to the fullest.

Seven year old Alice Liddell was a spirited and remarkable child; a child who never wanted to grow up. As a child Alice had a unique friendship with a much older Mr. Charles Dodgson. Alice feels that he is the only one who truly understands her and she takes pride in the fact that he bestows upon her his most ardent attention. On one "golden afternoon" Mr Dodgson tells Alice and her sisters a marvelous story about a little girl named Alice and her adventures in Wonderland. Alice begs him to write the tale down so she can be immortalized as a child forever, but little does she know that her world of Wonderland might not always be so wonderful...
That "golden afternoon" is soon clouded over, and Alice finds herself in a world where she is more confused then ever. She is now a young lady full of hopes, desires, and madly in love. Unfortunately, her role in the making of Wonderland and the scandal that occurred after that "golden afternoon" threatens to destroy any chance of finding happiness...

Melanie Benjamin has weaved an engaging and haunting tale with her novel Alice I Have Been. Before reading this novel, I had never known that there was a real Alice that inspired Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. This novel has brought Alice's story to life in a whole new way. Throughout the book, there are many phrases used from Alice's adventures in Wonderland, which made the book even more enchanting. It was also brilliant how the author gave characters certain personality traits which easily tied them to the classic story. This was a fast paced and very well written book. The last chapter of the book was one of surprise intensity and answering any questions that might have been lurking in the back of the readers mind, resulting in complete and perfect closure. Alice I Have Been is a wonderful book that will leave you with a whole new view of the beloved classic Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

A Little Extra:

Alice Liddell at age seven photo by Charles Dodgson aka Lewis Caroll
Alice Liddell at age eighteen photo by Charles Dodgson aka Lewis Caroll
Alice Liddell Hargreaves at age eighty in 1932, two years before her death.

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