Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin, Audio narrated by Samantha Eggar
Fiction, Published 2010
Challenges: Audio Book, You’ve Got Mail
Read: Sept 2010, 12 hrs (unabridged)
Few works of literature are as universally beloved as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Now, in this spellbinding historical novel, we meet the young girl whose bright spirit sent her on an unforgettable trip down the rabbit hole–and the grown woman whose story is no less enthralling.
But oh my dear, I am tired of being Alice in Wonderland. Does it sound ungrateful?
Alice Liddell Hargreaves’s life has been a richly woven tapestry: As a young woman, wife, mother, and widow, she’s experienced intense passion, great privilege, and greater tragedy. But as she nears her eighty-first birthday, she knows that, to the world around her, she is and will always be only “Alice.” Her life was permanently dog-eared at one fateful moment in her tenth year–the golden summer day she urged a grown-up friend to write down one of his fanciful stories.
That story, a wild tale of rabbits, queens, and a precocious young child, becomes a sensation the world over. Its author, a shy, stuttering Oxford professor, does more than immortalize Alice–he changes her life forever. But even he cannot stop time, as much as he might like to. And as Alice’s childhood slips away, a peacetime of glittering balls and royal romances gives way to the urgent tide of war.
For Alice, the stakes could not be higher, for she is the mother of three grown sons, soldiers all. Yet even as she stands to lose everything she treasures, one part of her will always be the determined, undaunted Alice of the story, who discovered that life beyond the rabbit hole was an astonishing journey.
A love story and a literary mystery, Alice I Have Been brilliantly blends fact and fiction to capture the passionate spirit of a woman who was truly worthy of her fictional alter ego, in a world as captivating as the Wonderland only she could inspire.
From the Hardcover edition.
What a tragic and haunting tale. I really enjoyed the narrator. She creates a slow, twisting, engrossing, and often disturbing tale of Alice Liddell and her Mr. Dodgson. An incident that occurred when she was only seven continues to haunt her long after childhood. It even prevents her from marrying the love of her life. I often wondered while listening to this audio, what events were true and which ones were embellished. Supposedly the real Alice Liddell did not have a love affair with the Prince Leopold, the youngest son of Queen Victoria, but she does in the book. While I really loved his character and their love story in the book, he was initially only enamored by the idea of meeting Alice of Wonderland. While I do not doubt his love for Alice, I felt that she often felt she had to live up to his high expectations, to be someone she was not. I truly felt sorry for her husband, Reginal Hargreaves, because he loved her for who she was and didn’t really care about the whole Wonderland phenomenon.
I thought the most poignant discovery that Alice made was when she finally realizes, after most of her loved ones are gone, that she truly loved the life she lived. She spent so much of her life with regrets and hate toward those she felt did her wrong or didn’t love her enough. She never really lived in the moment because she was so sad that she wasn’t living the life she wanted, a life that she feels was essentially stolen from her by Mr. Dodgson.
I think that any story that leaves you wanted to frantically seek out the “true” story should be considered a hit. I’m left feeling that I want to hear Mr. Dodgson’s side of the story. Alice’s story often felt like it came from a very narrow rabbit hole; she was either unable or unwilling to see the truth from every angle.
I suppose at some point we must choose which memories to hold on to, and which ones to let go. -Alice of Wonderland to Peter of Neverland