Alice I Have Been

Now in her twilight years, Alice Liddell looks back on a remarkable life. From a pampered childhood in Oxford to difficult years as a widowed mother, Alice examines how she became who she is--and how she became immortalized as Alice in Wonderland.

Melanie Benjamin
Historical Fiction
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Publishers Weekly:  Benjamin (the pseudonymous Melanie Hauser) draws on one of the most enduring relationships in children's literature in this excellent outing, spinning out the heartbreaking story of Alice from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Her research into the lives of Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) and the family of Alice Liddell is apparent as she takes circumstances shrouded in mystery and colors in the spaces to reveal a vibrant and passionate Alice. Born into a Victorian family of privilege, free-spirited Alice catches the attention of family friend Dodgson and serves as the muse for both his photography and writing. Their bond, however, is misunderstood by Alice's family, and though she is forced to sever their friendship, she is forever haunted by their connection as her life becomes something of a chain of heartbreaks. As an adult, Alice tries to escape her past, but it is only when she finally embraces it that she truly finds the happiness that eluded her. Focusing on three eras in Alice's life, Benjamin offers a finely wrought portrait of Alice that seamlessly blends fact with fiction.

BookList:  Ever wonder what happened to Alice Liddell, the little girl who, one golden afternoon in 1862, became the inspiration for Lewis Carroll's classic, Alice in Wonderland? Well, wonder no more. First-novelest Benjamin tells us in a story that is a mixture of historically accurate fact and liberally imagined fiction, including her solution to the mystery of what actually happened to estrange Carroll (the pseudonym of mathematician, amateur photographer, and Oxford don Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) from his muse's family. Benjamin's Alice knows but isn't telling at least not until the end of her long life and this even longer book, by which time her dark secret, as Benjamin imagines it, has contributed to many of the sorrows and disappointments she has suffered, including a doomed love affair with Prince Leopold, Queen Victoria's youngest son, and the joyless marriage that followed. Benjamin's characters tend to be one-dimensional types and behave accordingly, though there are some genuinely moving moments, and the circumstances of Liddell's childhood friendship with Dodgson are intrinsically interesting. As for Benjamin's deliciously melodramatic portrait of art historian John Ruskin, it's almost worth the price of admission.--Cart, Michael

School Library Journal:  In this novel, Benjamin examines the life of Alice Liddell Hargreaves, the inspiration for Lewis Carroll's Alice. As she explains, Alice and her sisters are the "princesses" of Oxford and are expected to act in a manner befitting nobility. At the age of seven, Alice Liddell develops a close, intimate relationship with Charles Dodgson, an instructor at Oxford, who will go on to publish as Lewis Carroll. She serves as his muse until the age of 11, when one summer day an inappropriate encounter is witnessed by her sister. Alice's relationship with Dodgson and the rumors that follow her will cast a shadow over the rest of her life, costing her a relationship with Prince Leopold and the chance to become a real princess. Benjamin has researched the facts of Alice's and Dodgson's lives and filled in blanks, including what really happened between Alice and Dodgson to cause an irreparable rift between them. The author weaves these facts and her additions into an engaging and moving story of childhood obsession, adolescent dreams, and the realities of adult life. Alice's feelings about being the real-life version of a childhood literary icon are explored in an in-depth manner both from the perspective of her teen years and during her life as a wife and mother. This is a beautiful story for readers interested in the fictionalized life of a literary inspiration.-Laura Amos, Newport News Public Library, VA