Alice I Have Been: A Novel

28 Sep


Author: Melanie Benjamin

Genre: Fantasy

First Published: 2010

Page Count: 345

Type: Paperback

Film/ TV Adaptation: No

Rating: 2/5 Stars

Though the subject is enchanting, the story falls disappointingly short.


*Interesting look into a classic character     *Accurate portrayal of subject


*Beginning and end are slow     *Doesn’t really have a strong “Aha!” moment

But oh my dear, I am tired of being Alice in Wonderland. Does it sound ungrateful? It is. Only I do get tired.” Everyone knows the story of Alice in Wonderland but few know the story of Alice Liddell, the woman who inspired this famous children’s story. Her life is anything but magical, and yet she must spend her life fighting against the assumption that she is exactly like the fictional Alice in Wonderland in every way. Along the way, however, she does experience moments of bliss including the birth of her children, the creation of her family home, and a royal fling that teaches her what love is.

I was excited to read this book because I had recently read my mother’s tattered copy of Alice in Wonderland  and Through the Looking Glass. I also knew next to nothing about the story’s history and its author, Lewis Carroll. Benjamin creates an interesting story about a charming and beloved character of classic literature, and learning more about this story is almost reason enough to check this book out. I also enjoyed the appearances of various historical figures and how they impacted the life of Alice Liddell. It seems as if the author stayed to true to the time period as well as to the actual historical events. The way she weaves together the story is obviously the result of much consultation and study which is what you want in a writer of historical fiction.

Unfortunately the story never finds its “Aha!” moment. It does have a scene that is clearly meant to define the story, but it gets lost in the shuffle and lacks punch. The beginning of the novel is very slow as the reader tries to get a handle on the main character’s background and what point of her life is taking place. From then on, the plot jumps around to different events, and while you can tell Alice’s relationship with the author of Wonderland is supposed to be the focus of the tale, it somehow falls short in the end. The author starts out well in developing that plot point but it just ends with a halt. Although for the sake of accuracy, the author couldn’t have gone any further with the relationship. The end also dragged because after the main plot point ends, the rest of the story just feels like one long epilogue.

I wanted so much to like this book. Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres and an intimate look into Alice in Wonderland’s life seemed right up my alley. While her life story was definitely interesting, I could have been just as fascinated reading it from a biography where its goal is to act like a timeline of the subject’s life. I want a little more passion and life from my historical novels. And while there were bursts of energy at some points that made me want to try to love this book again, in the end, I couldn’t.


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