Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin (Book Review)

Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin (Book Review)Alice I Have Been
Pages: 345
My Rating two-stars
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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.


“Off with their – legs. That was the curious notion I had as a child.”

That was the beginning of Chapter One. A cute quirky reference to the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland, although the Queen preferred to lop off heads.

Chapter One introduced us to Mr. Dodgson. His character immediately made me feel uncomfortable. All I kept thinking was, “Is he a creepy pedophile?” As the story continued I felt more and more uncomfortable reading it. I did not enjoy the innuendo or the implications and the fantasy of Alice in Wonderland became completely mired as the author continued to touch on the relationship between Alice Liddell Hargreaves and Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll was his pen name).

I had to stop reading after Chapter Two and go to Google. I searched for Charles Dodgson and Alice Liddell. I read websites and research, I looked at pictures, I read more research and ultimately there are no confirmed facts that Mr. Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) was indeed a pedophile or that he ever had any illicit relationships with children however the speculation, and circumstantial evidence, is strong. (For more information: Google the “Carroll Myth”) The mere suspicion, and the behavior that can be confirmed, was enough to make me uncomfortable with the story. I did complete the book but it was depressing.

Ultimately, young Alice’s friendship with Mr. Dodgson ruined her reputation with family, friends and students at Oxford University where her father was the Dean, it cost her the love, and engagement, of a young prince, and haunted her for all the days of her life. While Melanie Benjamin did take liberties with the fact and while she did draw her own conclusions based on the research available regarding the friendship between Alice and Mr. Dodgson it is easy to see how her tale was written. There are mixed reviews regarding this story and I have read where some readers absolutely adored it but I do not share that sentiment at all. I found the entire tale, and implications, incredibly disturbing and I have felt strong negative reactions to the story.

One thing is true, whether you love it, or hate it, you will never view Alice in Wonderland the same way again. For me, it is no longer a fun exotic adventurous trip through a lovely fantasy land, instead, it is a sad reminder of the day that ruined a beautiful little girl’s life forever.


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