Book Review: Alice I Have Been
Author: Melanie Benjamin
Genre: Historical fiction
Number of Pages: 400
Where I Got It: Library
First line: "Off with their - legs."
You've read the story (or seen the Disney movie) millions of times, but have you ever wondered who exactly is Alice in Wonderland? Melanie Benjamin tackles that very question, mixing historical facts with fiction to create the character of Alice. As Alice grows from a young girl to a wife and mother and then to an elderly lady, she is constantly haunted by her second identity as Alice in Wonderland and it's an identity she'd rather not be associated with. As she constantly tries to denounce her association with the book and with Charles Dodgson aka Lewis Carroll, she finally realizes that perhaps as much as she tries to fight it, she really is Alice after all.
I can't quite figure out why I liked this book so much, but it was fantastic. Great character development, great storyline, with just a bit of mystery and honestly a creepy undertone throughout the story. Throughout the entire book, you have a feeling that there's something that's just not right when it comes to the relationship Mr. Dodgson has with Alice and her sisters, but Benjamin never outright lays out anything specific that occurs between Mr. Dodgson and Alice. Instead, she depicts their "friendship" through the innocent eyes of Alice whose childhood affection for Mr. Dodgson overshadows any disturbing and inappropriate relationship that might be implied. Yet, you're still left with uncomfortable feelings that something isn't quite right. It's pretty brilliant.
Secondly, Benjamin stays really close to try facts and historical events and that makes the story even more fascinating. There is a long note at the end of the book that discusses what is fact and what is fiction and that alone made me want to research who Alice was and the life she lived.
Overall, a very creative and well-written story that had me drawn in from start to finish. Highly recommended.
Final Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Coming Up Next: A Tree Grow in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
The book follows Francie Nolan and her family in Brooklyn in the early 1900s. At the start of the book, Francie is 11 in 1912 and the story continues through her 16th year. Francie's family is poor - her mother is a maid and her father is a singing waiter who works when he is sober enough to get a night's pay. So Francie and her younger brother Neely learn the hard way about just how tough the world is. But they also learn about life's simple pleasures and what beauty lies in the small things.