Book Review: Alice I Have Been

I’d heard of this book a few times, but I did not pick it up until my local Borders store was going out of business and marking down everything on the shelves. (This was about a year and a half ago.)

I have so many books on my shelves right now that I haven’t read, so I’ve made myself the promise to focus more on reading those than obtaining new books. The exception to this rule being gifts, the Gardner’s tent sale (more on that soon), and any series I’m actively in the middle of and waiting for the next installment.

“Alice I Have Been” by Melanie Benjamin is a fictional account of the real story of Alice Liddell, the girl on which Lewis Carroll (whose real name was Charles Dodgson) based the story. Although the account is fictional, a letter in the back of the book from Melanie to her readers does state that she did a great deal of research and used fact whenever she could find it. What few facts there are still leaves the reader with much to scratch their head over. I can understand why she was so intrigued to write this story.

Told entirely from Alice’s point-of-view, we follow the story from when she is very young (only 6 or 7) through the late years of her life into her 80s. Her relationship with Mr. Dodgson made me cheer, sit on the edge of my seat, and set my skin crawling all at the same time. It screamed something so very wrong, yet I didn’t want to see it end poorly all the same. I cried, I laughed, I set my hands into cramps from gripping the book too hard… you can get the idea. I was emotionally invested from the beginning.

Melanie gives Alice such a distinct voice throughout the story that I can half-imagine I actually sat down with her myself and heard it straight from her lips. The heartbreak of losing family, the consequences of wanting to be a young girl forever, the repercussions of choices made as a bold little girl, and the struggles with the loves of her life had me intrigued from the very first page.

Essentially I was utterly captivated.

I had high expectations from this book. Why? I’m not sure. I’ve never read Melanie Benjamin. No one I know had recommended this book to me. And I’ve never been a very big fan of Alice in Wonderland. But something about this book screamed to me, “I’m an amazing story. Just wait. You’ll see.”

If you enjoy historical fiction, like Alice in Wonderland, or even just want to read the gripping story of a little girl the whole world thinks they know… please, give this book a try. “Alice I Have Been” is 5 stars in my opinion, and there’s not too many books I give a perfect score to!

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