13 March 2010

Alice I have been

by Melanie Benjamin

Harper Collins. History. Paperback, rrp $32.99

With the new Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland movie recently released, this is a timely book for the adults.

Alice I have been is the fictional story of Alice Liddell, the muse of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Alice was the Dean of Oxford’s middle daughter and seven years old when Charles Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll, begins telling her the story of Alice’s Adventures Underground. Alice pleaded with him to write it down. For the young Alice Liddell, Mr Dodgson, the stuttering mathematics professor, was her escape from learning. He took Alice and her two sisters on many wonderful excursions around Oxford, keeping them amused with his imaginary tales.

But what happened when Alice grew up? What is the story of the real Alice and her relationship with the much older Mr Dodgson?

All evidence of what happened to the friendship between Lewis Carroll and the Liddell family has been destroyed however Melanie Benjamin has drawn her own conclusions from research to create a wonderful, sometimes painful, story of Alice Liddell.

The real Alice does grow up. She marries and has three boys but tragedy follows her entire life. As she reflects on her life she realises Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is a story about her and that she will never grow up.

I loved this book although I wondered occasionally where the line between fact and fiction might have been blurred. Nevertheless, this book will make you look at the original Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland with new and very wide open eyes!

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