26 April 2011

Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin

Seriously, seriously disturbing book! I know it is fiction: a novel written to fill in the blanks left by history, but seriously disturbing. The facts are that the Rev. Charles Ludwidge Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll, liked to hang out with young girls; like to photograph young girls; "Rather provocatively posed young girls". (quote from ' A note from the author' at the end of the book) One of these young girls was Alice Liddell, his inspiration for 'Alice in Wonderland'. I don't want to give too much away but if you read the author's notes at the end of the book, red flags pop up everywhere. Of course, no one knows what the actual relationship between Mr. Dodgson and Alice looked like, we can only guess. That's why it's fiction!

I am sure that I could not have written this book. I have great admiration for Melanie Benjamin, in that she did. The novel she wrote is dark. As I read it, I always felt there was something going on that I just couldn't quite catch. It was like trying to catch smoke. Even having just finished reading, I feel unsettled.

The adults in the book really annoyed me. As did the 'blame the victim' philosophy that permeated the story. But, I'm thinking that these portrayals are likely true to the Victorian era. Now that I am more aware of the story behind the story, I want to do a little digging of my own and see what I can add to my understanding. (Considering the thorough research Ms Benjamin has done, I will likely find nothing new - but I am still compelled to try.)

Re-reading what I have written it seems like I am trying to say I didn't like the book. Not true. 'Alice I Have Been' has embedded itself in my brain and I am glad I read it. It is just not a sunshine and rainbows kind of book. I would be totally comfortable with my thirteen year old reading this book. It's 'cleaner' than many of the books written specifically for teens. 'Alice' is a compelling read, just don't expect a 'feel good' story.


  1. I just bought this book recently, I'm really excited to read it.

  2. Let me know what you think.

  3. OH! This sounds utterly fascinating. I'm sure you're right about the adults and blame the victim attitude being Victorian. I congratulate Melanie Benjamin for bringing that out. It must be hard not to let a little modernity in so I really admire those who work hard to be authentic.

    I'm putting this on my Goodreads. Thank you for the post!



Here's your chance to voice your opinion. We all have them. I'd love to hear yours. I try to respond to all comments so please check back if you are interested in that.