Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin
Was there really an Alice from which Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was derived? In fact, there was, and her story is retold in this gripping fictionalized tale about Alice Liddell Hargreaves, and her relationship with the book’s author, Charles Dodgson (better known as Lewis Carroll).
At the center of this stunning novel is a mystery that, even more than being “Alice,” creates the catalyst for all that happens to her as she leaves her childhood to become a young woman, a rejected lover, a wife, a mother, and finally, herself.
Alice Hargreaves grew up within the confines of Oxford University where her father was dean and her mother was the social light around which all activities in their small and cloistered academic community swirled. As a young girl, Alice and her two sisters were given over rather carelessly to the company of Mr. Dodgson, who was beloved by them all — most especially Alice and her older sister, Ina. As it was clear that Alice was the favorite among the three, Ina developed and nurtured a relentless jealousy for Alice.
In time, however, the sisters went their separate ways and met their separate fates — Alice’s being one of love lost, excruciating grief over life’s worst tragedy for a parent, and of love finally found. Beginning as a reflection of 81-year-old Alice over the course of her life, the reader is taken on a journey through one woman’s uncommon life in confines of Victorian mores and universal recognition.
Publisher’s Weekly calls this novel “book club gold,” and, indeed, it is.
Random House; ISBN 978-0-38534-414-2; $15.