Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin

I saw this book mentioned all over the book blogosphere before it was released.  I requested a galley but never received one so I was happy to find it on my library’s Overdrive Downloadable Audiobook page.  This is a little heavier fair than my normal audiobook selections, but the writing was such that it was easy to follow even if my mind wandered every once in a while.  Also, as I listen to more and more audiobooks, I get better at listening to them without letting my mind wander.

But you really want to know about the book so let’s talk about it.  Alice I Have Been is a fictional account of the life of Alice Liddell, the girl who inspired Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  I think there are two groups of people who will enjoy this novel.  The first group of people are fans of Lewis Carroll’s books, and the second group are folks who love good historical fiction.  I found Benjamin’s description of the Victorian era to be engrossing.  Her research into the time period is evident. 

The story itself is interesting and slightly disturbing at points.  I tried to listen to it remembering that the ideas of appropriate relationships between adults and children were different in the Victorian era.  For example, it was not unusual for parents to commission nude photographs of children similar to the nude angels seen in artwork of the time.  Benjamin succeeds in lessening the disquieting factor of the story by telling the story from Alice’s point-of-view and painting it as a child’s affection for an older man.  There really isn’t a way for an author to write this book and have it not be a bit disturbing.  I think it is fairly widely known that, while he probably never acted on his feelings, Dodgson was likely a pedophile. 

After the description of their relationship, Benjamin goes on to tell the story of how Alice’s life was colored by her relationship to Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll).  This is where her talent in writing historical fiction comes in.  In this time period, women were judged solely on their reputation and their likelihood of making a good marriage.  Alice must face the fact that her childhood friendship with Dodgson will not be overlooked by potential suitors.

If you are in the two aforementioned groups of readers and don’t mind books that make you feel uncomfortable, you should definitely check this one out.


5 thoughts on “Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin

  1. I am so glad I read your review of this book. I had a feeling I would really enjoy this book but wasn’t quite sure what it was about. Now I know it is a must read for me.

  2. Pingback: Book Review: #21 – Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin « Let's eat, Grandpa! Let's eat Grandpa! (Punctuation saves lives.)

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