Review: Alice I Have Been

ImageHave you ever wondered about the story behind Alice in Wonderland? I know many times my daughter and I have talked about how the author, Lewis Carroll came up with such characters as the White Rabbit and The Mad Hatter. Alice, I Have Been written by Melanie Benjamin gives an insight from the true story of Alice using fiction to explain the unanswered questions. Yes, Alice was real and known as Alice Liddell, the daughter of the dean of Christ Church in Oxford. Lewis Carroll was the pin name for Charles Dodgson who was professor that taught mathematics at Christ Church and had a special interest in Alice. An interest that no one really understood or had spoke of. This leaving the rest of us with lots of questions not answered about his relationship with the Liddell family who he spent a lot of time with the three daughters. As we figure, Alice mainly holding a special place in his heart for he had taken many pictures of her. Though we would often take them of all three of the sisters, a single picture of Alice along with letters written to her when she was 11 became a scandal. This resulted in her parents forbidding him to have contact with the girls again.

The story Alice in Wonderland came from a story that Dodgson told the three sisters one afternoon using Alice as the main character. He told the girls many stories but this was the only one he told using one of them. Alice had asked him several times to write her story down which he finally did resulting to the Alice in Wonderland that we know of today. Later when the real Alice was in her eighties she finally let known about the original copy written from Charles Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll for she had to auction it to keep her home which then made her famous as the Alice from Alice in Wonderland.

In Benjamin’s novel, she gives fictional explanation of what could have happened by answering some of those questions through this captivating story. I could actually make sense of why the true story of Alice has so many holes in it. Dodgson was 31 to her 11 years when what seemed to be a desirable affection between the two really sparked. Dodgson let known to Alice at the age of 7 that she was special to him as he took pictures of her at the time that would have been consider very risqué and today would have him locked up for child pornography.

The true and fictional story of Alice both highlights her life as a very sad one. Along with the strange relationship with Dodgson, as a young adult woman she falls in love with Prince Leopold whose mother did not agree with the relationship and forbid it. She did marry a man she found that she truly did love later in his life and they had three sons, one she named after Leopold. She then lost two of her three sons to war then some years later her husband.

Though a very sad story I have to say I really did enjoy the book.  I will never look at Alice in Wonderland the same again.


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