Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin
Published by: Delacorte Press
Published on: January 12, 2010
Page Count: 368
Genre: Historical Fiction
My Reading Format: Audio book purchased using my Audible.com credit
Available Formats: Hardcover, eBook, audio book ~ the paperback version will be published on December 28, 2010
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 literarymystery, 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.
As someone who has never really been interested in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland or Lewis Caroll. Even the Disney version has never held much interest for me. Shoot, I even developed an actual distaste for Alice in Wonderland after watching Tom Petty’s video for “Don’t Come Around Here No More.” I never developed a distaste for the song, though. Go figure. Anyway, I cannot tell you exactly what prompted me to buy and download the audio book except that Devourer of Books absolutely raved about it and I liked the narrator’s voice from the sample on Audible.com. I am so very pleased that I took a chance on this novel. It’s an interesting story about how a girl becomes a woman and a woman becomes a mother and a lover. I thought it was beautiful and there were sections at the end that brought tears to my eyes.
I listened to this novel back in March. I wish I had the chance to write my review earlier, but much still sticks out in my mind about this book and my reading experience:
- There are times when it works to one’s advantage to know about the historical figures and places when reading historical fiction. There are other times when it was not. This was definitely one of those times when I’m glad I didn’t. Not knowing made the storyline with Prince Leopold especially compelling.
- I don’t often talk back to my books, audio or otherwise, but there was a scene with Alice’s mother that made me almost yell out loud, “Oh no, you didn’t just say that!” She did. It was a great moment in the book.
- The insights Alice made into her life and family were very beautiful. They definitely brought a tear to my eye. It gave me pause to reflect on my own.
- When Alice’s relationship with Dodgson came to a head, I thought that certainly I must have missed something. I soon realized that the definition of scandalous behavior has changed a great deal since Victorian England. It makes me wonder how Alice’s life might have been changed had the times in which she lived been different?
- I absolutely loved the sections with John Ruskin. They had a perverse chemistry together that kept you on the edge of your seat wondering where it would lead Alice.
- Samantha Eggar was spot on as narrator. Her reading added to the story, especially during dialog. I would definitely recommend her.
My Final Thoughts
Alice I Have Been is much more than a novel about the life of Alice Liddell. It is a look at Victorian England, which fiercely tried to hold on to it’s belief system and morals in a rapidly changing world. What Mr. Dodgson tried to capture in his photographs of Alice, Benjamin captured in this novel. It’s a must read for fans of historical fiction and a great story no matter what the setting.
In addition to the links I provided to Devourer of Books’ review, here are some other opinions about Alice I Have Been:
I’m publishing this review as part of Audiobooks Week, coordinated by Devourer of Books.