26 January 2010

Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin

Flap Copy from ARC: "Who was Alice Pleasance Liddell? Eighty-year-old Alice mines her way to the heart of this question - speaking of the implacable mother who raised her, of the prince who loved her, of the sons she sent off to war, of the love affair that shattered her life. She reflects upon her halcyon days in Oxford: days of great privilege and greater tragedy, of being courted by royalty, and of finding life beyond the rabbit hole in a tumultuous but astonishing journey. In a novel that blends fact and fiction, a feather in the winds of literary history is ensnared as a woman reminisces about a lifetime spend trying to escape Wonderland - and of at last learning to embrace it."

Who doesn't have a childhood memory of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - the book or the Disney movie or both - few works of literature are so widely beloved. Benjamin's tale, told from the viewpoint of an elderly Alice looking back on a life lived in the shadow of her childhood self, was a poignant and engrossing look at the life of Alice Liddell, the 'real' Alice in Wonderland. I never knew more than that the book was inspired by a real girl - reading this novel made me want to learn more about the history of the original work.

I think Benjamin truly captured the essence of Alice's voice throughout the book, as an adult looking back at herself, her family and friends and trying to remember the people and events she has spent most of her life trying to forget. I felt for Alice, trapped in a house with an austere, uncaring mother, a distant father and a manipulative older sister; she was always the odd one out, struggling to find her place. She knew she didn't fit in; she knew that she was different, that she viewed the world differently than her peers -- it was this difference, which she longed to celebrate, that drew the attention of Charles Dobson and set in motion a chain of events that would change Alice's life forever.

This novel was a great read, a story about a story that I've always wished to further understand. Though the complete truth about the relationship between Dodson and Liddell will never be known, this well-imagined tale captured my interest and also my heart. One of the best books I've read this year - I highly recommend it.

1 comment:

  1. I can't wait to read this! The cover and the title are haunting, and I think it's such a good subject to explore. (Cause I looove Alice in Wonderland.)