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#260 ~ Alice I Have Been

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.

My Review

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.

Other Voices

In addition to the links I provided to Devourer of Books’ review, here are some other opinions about Alice I Have Been:

Good Books and Good Wine
S. Krishna’s Books
Fyrefly’s Book Blog
Vulpes Libris
A Reader’s Journal
The Book Whisperer
Reading Extravaganza

********

I’m publishing this review as part of Audiobooks Week, coordinated by Devourer of Books.

13 Comments

  • At 2010.06.22 12:28, Jo-Jo said:

    I’ve been wanting to read this book so I am glad the audio version worked well for it. May have to try to get my hands on that one!

    • At 2010.06.22 12:37, carol said:

      I’m not much of a fan of Alice in Wonderland, either, but I really want to read this one. Glad to see you enjoyed it.

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      • At 2010.06.22 13:28, Chrisbookarama said:

        I enjoyed this one too, especially older Alice. Have you seen the photos of Alice Liddell? Very interesting.

        I usually give away my review books but kept this one for the cover.

        I also reviewed it if you are interested: http://www.chrisbookarama.com/2009/10/alice-i-have-been-by-melanie-benjamin.html

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        • At 2010.06.22 15:25, Sandy said:

          Just a few days ago, the kids and I were at the library hunting down The Hobbit on audio, and this one was displayed as a feature audio. My daughter grabbed it and asked “ooh, is this one good?”. I wasn’t sure if it was kid-friendly, so I told her to move on. She was just attracted to the cover I think. This book was all the rage some months back, but I didn’t give it much thought. I’m not a huge fan of Alice in Wonderland…always creeped me out. Maybe I need to rethink.

          • At 2010.06.22 16:05, bermudaonion (Kathy) said:

            I’m really looking forward to reading this book, so I’m glad to see you loved it.

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            • At 2010.06.22 16:44, Meghan said:

              I still haven’t managed to get my hands on this book, but you’ve reminded me that I need to! I’ll be reading it in print though; I’m still not an audiobook convert.

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              • At 2010.06.22 17:04, Jen - Devourer of Books said:

                I’m not huge on Wonderland either – and evidently neither is Melanie Benjamin. She was intrigued by the photos of Alice Liddell, but really didn’t care that much for Alice in Wonderland before that, which I thought was interesting. I totally agree about the Leopold thing, I was glad that was able to come as a surprise to me.

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                • At 2010.06.23 08:26, Stephanie said:

                  I really want to read this one. Like you, my interest in Alice in Wonderland is minimal, to say the least. I am sure I will love this one regardless though.

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                  • At 2010.06.23 10:15, Jennifer-Girls Gone Reading said:

                    I got to meet Melanie Benjamin this past weekend in Glen Ellyn, IL, and she wasn’t a huge Alice in Wonderland fan either, but she was interested in the same things you were-the Victorian era, the relationship between Alice and Dodson. I haven’t read the book yet, but with my new signed copy I should get started ASAP :)

                    • At 2010.06.23 21:45, Lisa said:

                      Oh goodie! I’ve wanted to read this one but just don’t have time to sit down with the book. So I’ll head over to my library site and request it on audio.

                      • At 2010.06.24 18:44, Jemima said:

                        Thanks for this recommendation. I love historical fiction books and this sounds very interesting. I will be looking out for a copy for sure.

                        • At 2010.06.25 11:01, Meg said:

                          Hmm — sounds like I should have given the audio a chance before picking up the novel, maybe! I read about 80 pages of this one before giving up, feeling icky and strange about the whole thing. It was probably just my mood at the time, because so many readers and bloggers I love have recommended it! Maybe I’ll come back to it someday!

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                          • […] The Literate Housewife: “It’s a must read for fans of historical fiction and a great story no matter what the setting.” […]

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