Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Alice I Have Been


For those of you who loved Alice in Wonderland -- no, the real one, not the Disney version -- Melanie Benjamin's Alice I Have Been is a fascinating novelization of the story behind the children's classic -- the story of Charles Dodgson aka Lewis Carroll, and Alice Liddell, the privileged daughter of the Dean of the Oxford college where Dodgson was a don.

Alice and her two sisters often went on outings (properly chaperoned) with Dodgson, who was always happy to entertain the children with a story. It was on one of these outings that he told the story that became the children's classic.


But there's a good deal more to Alice's story.  Dodgson was a keen amateur photographer in the early days of photography and the Liddell girls were among his subjects. And then there's the intriguing photograph of seven year old Alice as a gypsy girl -- the knowing gaze and the provocative pose are enough to set a novelist's antennae quivering. Couple that with the fact that there seems to have been an estrangement of sorts between the Liddells and Dodgson when Alice was eleven, throw in a rumored romance between the grown-up Alice and one of Queen Victoria's sons, and it's a story begging to be written.

Benjamin traces Alice's life into her old age, neatly combining fact and speculation. (She is scrupulous in pointing out which is which in an equally interesting Reader's Guide.)

I always read the acknowledgements too, and somehow I wasn't surprised when Benjamin mentioned Kate Miciak -- "the most enthusiastic, understanding, terrifyingly smart editor ever" -- to which I say Amen. (Kate was my editor for all my books so far and she is, indeed, all of those things.)

 Human frailties, the beautiful world of Oxford,  family intrigue, and an ambiguous relationship explored. This book hit the sweet spot for me. 

11 comments:

agentrodsmith said...

This, I have to read, Vicki. Thanks for the 'heads up'.

Thérèse said...

I'll be sure to check this book. Heard of course about the known facts.

B. Rogers, Living in Black Mountain said...

Yipee...I needed a new book to indulge in soon!

JJ Roa Rodriguez said...

been awhile that I haven't visited even my blog. hopefully I can regularly visit blogs again.

this is a good insight, thanks Miss Vicki!

JJRod'z

Brian Miller said...

fascinating...its cool to hear the story behind the story...and see the connections to the story as well....i need to check this one out...

Jim Egerton said...

Boy! shows you how up on things I am I thought Disneys version was the real deal. Guess I better get the book.
Speaking of Oxford hope all have had a chance to watch ENDEAVOUR Morris on PBS. Shaun Evans plays the brooding, opera loving young Morris Perfectly. A young detective in Oxford, with plenty of mischief to detect among the uppity crowd at Oxford.
I loved the original Morris played by John Thaw. Colin Dexter wrote the original books.

NCmountainwoman said...

I'll add this one to my ever increasing "to be read pile." The photograph of seven-year-old Alice is a bit frightening. Makes one a bit suspicious of the photographer.

Janna Zonder said...

Those girls look terribly unhappy in the photo, and the one of young Alice, posed provocatively, is positively haunting.

Victoria said...

This sounds like a most interesting book, thanks for the recommendation!

Darla said...

Thanks for the recommendation…added to my long, long wish list.

As a side question, since you are a published author yet seem to also read a lot:
How do writers ever get any reading done? :-)

Until about five years ago -- which is when my writing started hitting its stride of continual expression -- I easily read several books a week, and now it seems like I'm lucky to get one completed in a month! LOL

Vicki Lane said...

Darla -- when I was on a deadline, I had to confine my reading to re-reads so I wouldn't be tempted to read all day. Now that I'm working at my own pace, I've been able to read some of the books I missed. And, boy, does it feel good!

Also, I am a VERY fast reader.