Saturday, October 03, 2009

118 (2009 #43). Alice I Have Been

by Melanie Benjamin

This advance reading copy (scheduled to be published in January 2010) is fascinating historical fiction / biographical novel about Alice Liddell, the inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Alice was 20 years younger than Carroll, and just a child when they met. He photographed her and her sisters numerous times and took them on picnics. A story he told them on one of these outings in 1862 was supposedly the idea for Alice in Wonderland. About a year later, something happened that resulted in a break between Carroll and the Liddell family; Alice’s mother burned all of Alice’s letters from Carroll and the pages were cut from Carroll’s diary that apparently covered the incident. There have been a number of theories and speculation on just what was on those cut diary pages, some of which support and some of which debunk the so-called “Carroll Myth” about his possible pedophilia.

Melanie Benjamin’s debut novel made me want to read more about both Liddell and Carroll, which for me means the book is a successful example of its genre. There’s just enough real-life mystery in the relationship between Liddell and Carroll to make excellent fiction, yet the story is well grounded in the available facts. I highly recommend this well-written, well-researched novel.

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