With the release of the new Johnny Depp movie, Alice in Wonderland, the timing of my reading of this book couldn't have been more perfect. Though it was a total coincidence.
Alice I Have Been, by Melanie Benjamin, tells the story of Alice Liddell the real Alice in Wonderland. Who knew that Lewis Carroll (real name, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) modeled his famous character from children's literature on a real little girl? Not me. And that is the very reason this book intrigued me. I love books about the real story behind the story. If you know what I mean.
Anyway, Alice I Have Been covers 7 decades of Alice Liddell's life - from the age of seven when she poses for a picture for Mr. Dodgson (as she calls Carroll) that inspired him to create Alice in Wonderland, through her teens and early twenties and then jumps to the end of her life in her 80s.
The majority of the book deals with the Liddell family's friendship with Mr. Dodgson, the slightly odd mathematics professor at Oxford where Mr. Liddell is Dean. Mr. Dodgson, a bachelor, spends many free afternoons on outings and picnics with the Liddell family and forms a special bond with little Alice. One day, while on a rowing expedition, Dodgson tells Alice and her sisters the magical tale of a little girl who has a fantastic adventure underground. It is clear to Alice that the story is about her and she begs Dodgson to write it down for her. He eventually does, and Alice in Wonderland is born.
However, Alice's relationship with Dodgson has long lasting effects on Alice and her family and colors the rest of her life. Not always in positive ways. It isn't until the end of her life that Alice is finally able to reconcile herself to the fact that she is the REAL Alice and to use that fact to her benefit.
I truly enjoyed this story of the real Alice. It is extremely interesting and more than a little mysterious. As detailed in the book, there is some break in the relationship between Dodgson, Alice and her family that threatens Alice for much of her young adult life. According to the author's notes, this is in fact true, but none of the parties involved ever divulged what had transpired to cause this break. There are, however, clues and Benjamin uses those clues to write a believable story about this event. And this is what I loved the most about this book. It made me want to learn more. To research Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell and the other prominent figures in the story (who I won't name, so as not to spoil the story) and see if I can find any more tidbits of the truth. Of course there aren't any more facts to uncover. Which just makes this story all the more intriguing. In addition, the author has included a few photos of Alice throughout her life. Including the one of Alice that inspired Dodgson to write Alice in Wonderful. A truly fascinating read. And very timely for those of you who can't wait to see the new movie.
I would give Alice I Have Been 4 STARS - I really liked it.