Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin is a first-person fictitious account of the Alice who inspired Lewis Carroll's, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. The book is divided into three parts, each introduced by an authentic photograph of the real Alice at various stages in her life. The first part is when she is a small girl living in Oxford, UK. She is the middle child of two sisters, and comes from a privileged family. Unlike the story so many people know, she makes it appoint to say that she looks nothing like the Alice in those stories. For instance, her hair is dark brown instead of blonde. Right away we are introduced to the family friend and photographer, the stuttering Mr. Dodgson, who is fond of the girls, specifically Alice. He photographs her often, and even holds a private session where he dresses her like a gypsy child and beckons her to roll around in the grass and run without shoes, something that was frowned upon by her class. There is always an uneasy feeling between the two. It's not outwardly sexual, however it does feel inappropriate. Mr. Dodgson writes and publishes a novel under the pen name "Lewis Carroll": Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. It is a huge success. Flattered, Alice, then an eleven-year-old girl, tries to kiss Mr. Dodgson. Her older sister sees this and tells their mother.
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Alice is in her twenties in the second section. She is of marrying age, and even holds the heart of a prince, and yet her mother denies the pair a union. Although nothing specific is said about the relationship between Alice and Mr. Dodgson, we get the sense that something horrid has happened between the two. He is not arrested or anything as dramatic as that, but he has been outcast, albeit civilly. There is one interaction between him and Alice, and that is when the prince requests Mr. Dodgson - Lewis Carroll! - to take his and Alice's photograph. This is an uncomfortable scene, and the prince picks up on it. Ultimately, the prince's mother, the Queen, doesn't consent to the marriage between her son and Alice. This is because she discovers the inappropriate nature between her and Mr. Dodgson. This section ends with Alice's younger, beloved, sister dying, and the prince saying goodbye.
In the final section, Alice is married to a run-of-the-mill man named Reginald. There are no bells and whistles to their marriage, but Alice is content in its simplicity. They have three sons, all of whom she loves deeply. Two of them die at war, and eventually Reginald dies of an illness. Left alone (the remaining son and her don't have a good relationship later in life), she thinks often of her prince (with fondness) and Mr. Dodgson (with disgust), both of whom are dead too. Even though she feels haunted by the novel Mr. Dodgson wrote for her, it is the novel that saves her at the end. Having no money and no men to care for her, she sells the original copy at auction and has enough to live on for the rest of her lonely days.
Best part of story, including ending:
I disliked the story because of how sad it turned out to be. Halfway through, it was one depressing event after another. Not that all books need to be happy-go-lucky, but a silver lining would have been nice.
Best scene in story:
The scene where Mr. Dodgson tells Alice a story, the story that ultimately becomes "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland." It's a happy day in the sun, on the side of a river, with her sisters. She is innocent then, not yet tarnished by the realities of life.
Opinion about the main character:
I highly dislike how arrogant she is. I understand that she is of good breeding, but the way she treats the servants and those who are of lower class is highly irritating.