Alice I Have Been

This book came to me at the perfect time. It’s one of those books that you can get completely lost in. It creates a world so realistic and wonderful that when you pull yourself out of the story to get a snack or answer the phone you’re disappointed by reality. Reality suddenly seems mundane and you find yourself with the ever increasing desire to read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  At least that’s how I felt when I was reading this book. And I needed that, I was feeling overwhelmed by life, I had just spent a month on editing odd jobs and I decided to treat myself to a book of my own. I book I could enjoy without over analyzing. A book I could escape into. This book was it. If I could give this book six stars I absolutely would.

Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin StarStarStarStarStar

This is not a story about Alice in Wonderland. I thought I would be disappointed by that but I wasn’t. I thought I wanted a story about a little blonde girl with an overactive imagination but this story was better. This story is about Alice; Alice of Oxford, Alice the Dean’s daughter, Alice the brunette. Alice whose spirit inspired her dear friend, Mr. Dodgson, to write down the story of Alice in Wonderland. A story that Alice begged for, a story that she’ll wish was never written.

Alice I Have Been is written in three parts following Alice through three different stages of life and love. It begins in 1859 when Alice is just a little girl with a dirty pinafore. Her and her sisters, Ina and Edith, spend their days roaming the campus with Mr. Dodgson, a quirky math professor who enjoys telling stories and taking pictures, and Pricks, their prickly, portly nanny. Alice has always felt a special connection with Mr. Dodgson who didn’t seem to mind if her dress got dirty and never scolded her for her outlandish desires (ie: running barefoot through the grass)… much to the dismay of her older sister, Ina, and their nanny – both of whom tend to vie for the attention of Mr. Dodgson. Unfortunately Mr. Dodgson only has eyes for Alice. He willingly grants her every wish and fulfills her every desire. He allows her to run barefoot through the grass, he lets her live like a wild child (if only for the afternoon), and he assures her she will never outgrow his company.

One day, as Alice and her sisters drift down the river, Mr. Dodgson tells the story of Alice in Wonderland – much to Alice’s delight. She begs and begs him to write the wonderful story down, which he does – effectively enshrining her in Wonderland forever – a gesture that would both honor and haunt her for the rest of her life.

I can’t even explain how amazing this book is without giving anything away. Alice learns first hand that there are many different types of love; infatuation, true love, boundless love, endless love… lost love. All the while she struggles with her identity as Alice in Wonderland; a girl that the world has fallen in love with, a girl who cannot live up to her fictional counterpart.

The characters in this story are emotional and real and all too human. I cried over them, several times. This book made me cry several times. That’s unheard of. Not to mention the way this book is written! Melanie Benjamin’s writing style is beautiful and poetic and mysterious. I almost wished I was reading it on my nook so I could highlight some of the more beautiful quotes and post them on facebook for all the world to see. She keeps things from the reader and reveals them just when you start to think she won’t, and those revelations are powerful. When I closed the cover on this book I wanted to open it right back up and start all over again. This is easily one of my new favorites.

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