Sunday, August 8, 2010

Book Review - Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin

The Mt Laurel Book Club discussed Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin on August 5th.This book sparked intense, but always friendly, discussion among our members. The premise of the book is engaging. By using factual information about the lives of Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) and Alice Liddell, the author has created a fictional account of the life of Alice Liddell. Alice Liddell, as many of you will know, is the acknowledged inspiration for Dodgson's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. The book's focus is on three eras of Alice's life: her childhood with Dodgson, her purported relationship with Prince Leopold in her twenties, and her life as a mother and wife. The author, Melanie Benjamin, does a wonderful job of giving Alice a distinct voice for each of the three ages covered in the book. This was a book that I enjoyed reading and have continued to discuss with friends. It has also kept me on the lookout for more information about these people and the events of their lives.

From Product Description:

Few works of literature are as universally beloved as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Now, in this spellbinding historical novel, we meet the young girl whose bright spirit sent her on an unforgettable trip down the rabbit hole–and the grown woman whose story is no less enthralling.

But oh my dear, I am tired of being Alice in Wonderland. Does it sound ungrateful?

Alice Liddell Hargreaves’s life has been a richly woven tapestry: As a young woman, wife, mother, and widow, she’s experienced intense passion, great privilege, and greater tragedy. But as she nears her eighty-first birthday, she knows that, to the world around her, she is and will always be only “Alice.” Her life was permanently dog-eared at one fateful moment in her tenth year–the golden summer day she urged a grown-up friend to write down one of his fanciful stories.

That story, a wild tale of rabbits, queens, and a precocious young child, becomes a sensation the world over. Its author, a shy, stuttering Oxford professor, does more than immortalize Alice–he changes her life forever. But even he cannot stop time, as much as he might like to. And as Alice’s childhood slips away, a peacetime of glittering balls and royal romances gives way to the urgent tide of war.

For Alice, the stakes could not be higher, for she is the mother of three grown sons, soldiers all. Yet even as she stands to lose everything she treasures, one part of her will always be the determined, undaunted Alice of the story, who discovered that life beyond the rabbit hole was an astonishing journey.

A love story and a literary mystery, Alice I Have Been brilliantly blends fact and fiction to capture the passionate spirit of a woman who was truly worthy of her fictional alter ego, in a world as captivating as the Wonderland only she could inspire.

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