Melanie Benjamin’s Alice I Have Been made quite a splash when it was published in 2010. The reviews that I read were mixed, and so it wasn’t on my TBR until my mom read it and said I HAD to read it. Now. Like, Go. Get. It. Now. And. Read. It. (Has she seen my TBR pile?) However, a week or so after this conversation, I saw it a my local library while I was looking for my next audio book, so I picked it up.
What I knew before my conversation with my mom: This is the story of the real Alice from Lewis Carol’s Alice in Wonderland.
What I knew after my conversation with my mom: And, it explores the odd fascination of a grown man with a little girl.
But now that I’ve listened to it? Oh my. I’ve always known that the real Alice had distanced herself from the book, presumably because it brought attention her way that she never asked for. Benjamin’s historical fiction takes all of the facts that are known about Charles L. Dodgson (Lewis Carol) and his relationship with the daughters of the Dean Liddell of Oxford’s Christ Church, particularly with Alice, and fills in the gaps with (now that I’ve done some research about it) what many have speculated was a pedophile’s fascination.
Written in first person from Alice’s perspective, she explores the confusing feelings she has about this man that admires her so – including an illicit freedom he allows and encourages. The nature of their relationship, its break, and what did or did not happen haunts Alice through her young adulthood, its romances, and even to motherhood and until she is widowed.
No spoilers here, but Benjamin does a good job of answering all the questions – at least in the fictional account of the relationship. This was a much better read than many reviewers gave it credit for. I think anyone who enjoys historical fiction will enjoy going down this rabbit hole.
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