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 Hargreavess 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.
©2010 Melanie Benjamin; (P)2010 Random House
I don't know if I would give this book 5 stars if I just read it. However, Samantha Eggar's narration of the audiobook is phenomenal. She really voiced Alice's emotions perfectly. There were a couple of times that I just ended up sobbing.
Now, I'm going to try to talk about content. Alice I Have Been takes the known facts of Alice Liddell's life and tries to explain the mystery of why Alice and her family had absolutely no contact with Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) starting around the time she was 10 or 11 years old. I hope it's not a spoiler to say that I am very uncomfortable with the theory Melanie Benjamin bases this novel on. I did find it interesting to learn that Dodgson was a math professor who was a photography buff. When I did a Google search of his photos while listening to this story, I found it a bit creepy that he mostly photographed little girls.
Although I don't read many historical fiction books, I have noticed that some of them try to include every detail about the historical period. It can be really annoying and too many details take away from the novel. Benjamin completely avoids that trap. She includes plenty of detail, but does it in a completely natural way. Her description of Victorian clothing and manners were especially good.
I'm not a fan of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass, but I was really fascinated by the story behind the story, even if it's highly fictionalized. There's one scene near the end where an elderly Alice meets the man who was the basis for Peter Pan. He's about thirty years old. Benjamin gives the reader just enough of a glimpse of him to leave me wanting to see her write a book about him.
How convenient that I finished this novel just as Tim Burton's new version of Alice in Wonderland is sweeping the country! The narrator is Alice Liddell Hargreaves, once the little girl for whom Lewis Carroll/Charles Dodson wrote the famous tale. It begins and ends with Alice, age 80, wrapping up a tour of America and relates the details of her relationship with Dodson. Was it an innocent friendship, an impossible love affair, or something more sinister? Alice keeps us guessing up until the end, dropping tantalizing tidbits along the way that, I confess, sometimes made me cringe a bit. The repeated motif is "that day on the train"--a day that Alice claims to have little recollection of but which resulted in the Liddells cutting off all contact with Mr. Dodson.
Even more fascinating than her relationship with Mr. Dodson are those with her mother and her older sister Ina--but I won't give anything away here for those who might want to read about it for themselves. The remainder of Alice's life is a fairly typical Victorian portrait of a woman who marries a nice man who is not the first or even second love of her life but rather her ticket out of an unpleasant home life and a spinster's future. Years later, like so many women of her era, she has to face the trauma of watching her sons going off to the battlefields of World War I.
My overall reaction to the book is mixed. At times, I was captivated, but at other times, the novel seemed rather a dull and conventional, like something I must have read many times before. Worth reading, in other words, but not exceptional.
As a person quite familiar with the actual histories of Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll), Alice P. (Liddell) Hargreaves, and the "Adventures of Alice Underground" I must say that this is one of the most lovely, beautifully-written, and enchanting fictional works done on this subject.
Yes, it touches upon the 20th and 21st Century conjecture that Dodgson (as well as John Ruskin) was a paedophile, but does so with factual convention and without salacious conjecture or uncomfortable accusation. (I personally believe Dodgson was not a paedophile, by the way.)
The very intricate weaving of facts with fiction, along with the authentic historical nature of this book, is breathtaking for both those who know little or alot about the persons involved.
In fact, the intricacy is so striking that I urge those who listen to this book to search online for the persons mentioned in order to fully understand just how profound and complicated this story really is, and how masterfully it has been written.
A "must read".
This is a wonderful book that is brilliantly narrated and well worth listening to. However, for some reason the audible edition does not include the author's note at the end, which apparently describes her process of combining fact and fiction and would have been very interesting. Not sure how they can call it an unabridged version when they omit that.
This book was surprisingly compelling .. I kept doing internet searches to read more about the characters and the background, even before I finished the book. The author convinced me she WAS Alice ... it felt more autobiographical than anythin else I've encountered like it .. and at the end of the book I decided to get a copy of Alice in Wonderland to read to my grand daughters.
I greatly enjoyed this story of the "real" Alice. The story is very well written and the narration was wonderful. One nit picky thing: the narrator changes the pronunciation of a character's name from EEE-na to EYE-na a couple of times which pulled me right out of the story each time.
Very insightful and beautifully written novel about the real Alice and Lewis Carroll. This book will have you rushing to google to read the history and check out the famous photo's Carroll took of Alice Liddal and her sisters so many years ago. Story is very well told and the narrator does a first rate job. You won't be disappointed.
....The narrator, Samantha Eggar, was perfect for the story. It's sad what happens to Alice Liddell in the things that occur to make the Alice in Wonderland story come about and her life is very unhappy and sad because of these situations.
She is a darling and precocious little girl.....full of life and struggles with the restrictions of being a proper Victorian girl. She befriends a man 20 years older than her, Mr. Dodson aka Lewis Carroll, and she ends up with a HUGE little girl crush on him. A certain event happens during this time that is never fully divulged until the very end of the book. While this was VERY frustrating, at times, because there was so much going on with Alice as she aged and the repercussions of this event caused her much grief.....and the author would NEVER let you know exactly what happened.....only bits and pieces. On the other hand.....the novel could not have been what it is without keeping the event vague until the very end. One of those "OH....now I really see why all this happened the way it did" moments that is actually quite fulfilling when reading a great story.
This is not a happy, light novel and there were several times where I was just so heartbroken for Alice......but there is hope in the fact that she does come to find happiness at the end of her life....it just takes her a long time to realize what she really had during her lifetime and how she didn't appreciate it when she did have it.....which I think we all do during periods of our lives.
All in all......I really did enjoy this novel and I think the one thing I got from it was that you should be careful for what you wish for because it might not be what you really need or want for you to live your life the way you want to or hope to.
I have to no idea who would like this story. I am flabbergasted this book made it on to the NY Times best Seller list.
the performance was great I can't say I had a favorite character though
While all the characters were essential to the plot the plot was just terrible.
This story was a great disappointment.
The best part of Alice I Have Been was the performance. Samantha Eggar added depth where there wasn't much to begin with. Her performance was probably the only reason I finished this book.
I had wanted to listen to Melanie Benjamin's other book, but I'm hesitant now. She took such a good idea with Alice I Have Been and really flailed with it. I don't think I'll spend any money on another of her books.
Alice I Have Been reads like a Wikipedia entry told in the first person. There is little to no depth here. A follow up book would probably be more of the same. I'd say to skip it.
I was very disappointing by this book. I had been looking forward to it for a long time and was sorely let down.
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