Alice I Have Been

  • by Melanie Benjamin
  • Narrated by Samantha Eggar
  • 12 hrs and 13 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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 Hargreavess 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.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Great Premise, So-So Result

How convenient that I finished this novel just as Tim Burton's new version of Alice in Wonderland is sweeping the country! The narrator is Alice Liddell Hargreaves, once the little girl for whom Lewis Carroll/Charles Dodson wrote the famous tale. It begins and ends with Alice, age 80, wrapping up a tour of America and relates the details of her relationship with Dodson. Was it an innocent friendship, an impossible love affair, or something more sinister? Alice keeps us guessing up until the end, dropping tantalizing tidbits along the way that, I confess, sometimes made me cringe a bit. The repeated motif is "that day on the train"--a day that Alice claims to have little recollection of but which resulted in the Liddells cutting off all contact with Mr. Dodson.

Even more fascinating than her relationship with Mr. Dodson are those with her mother and her older sister Ina--but I won't give anything away here for those who might want to read about it for themselves. The remainder of Alice's life is a fairly typical Victorian portrait of a woman who marries a nice man who is not the first or even second love of her life but rather her ticket out of an unpleasant home life and a spinster's future. Years later, like so many women of her era, she has to face the trauma of watching her sons going off to the battlefields of World War I.

My overall reaction to the book is mixed. At times, I was captivated, but at other times, the novel seemed rather a dull and conventional, like something I must have read many times before. Worth reading, in other words, but not exceptional.
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- Cariola "malfi"

Perfect Combination of Story and Narration

I don't know if I would give this book 5 stars if I just read it. However, Samantha Eggar's narration of the audiobook is phenomenal. She really voiced Alice's emotions perfectly. There were a couple of times that I just ended up sobbing.

Now, I'm going to try to talk about content. Alice I Have Been takes the known facts of Alice Liddell's life and tries to explain the mystery of why Alice and her family had absolutely no contact with Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) starting around the time she was 10 or 11 years old. I hope it's not a spoiler to say that I am very uncomfortable with the theory Melanie Benjamin bases this novel on. I did find it interesting to learn that Dodgson was a math professor who was a photography buff. When I did a Google search of his photos while listening to this story, I found it a bit creepy that he mostly photographed little girls.

Although I don't read many historical fiction books, I have noticed that some of them try to include every detail about the historical period. It can be really annoying and too many details take away from the novel. Benjamin completely avoids that trap. She includes plenty of detail, but does it in a completely natural way. Her description of Victorian clothing and manners were especially good.

I'm not a fan of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass, but I was really fascinated by the story behind the story, even if it's highly fictionalized. There's one scene near the end where an elderly Alice meets the man who was the basis for Peter Pan. He's about thirty years old. Benjamin gives the reader just enough of a glimpse of him to leave me wanting to see her write a book about him.
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- Amazon Customer "Sandikal"

Book Details

  • Release Date: 12-08-2009
  • Publisher: Random House Audio