Title: Alice I Have Been
Author: Melanie Benjamin
Genre: Historical fiction
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: Audiobook from the public library
Audiobook reader: Samantha Eggar
First line: Off with their – legs.
Alice has spent her entire life trying to put her childhood behind her. She is Alice Hargreaves, wife and mother. But she is also Alice Liddell, daughter of Dean Liddell of Oxford. And, she is Alice in Wonderland, the inspiration for the children’s novel by Charles Dodgson, also known as Lewis Carroll. In this novel, Alice reflects back on three periods of her life, the three periods which most shaped who she is now, as she is approaching her end.
When I first started to listen to Alice I Have Been, I looked up the author’s web site for some background information on the story. When I saw Melanie Benjamin’s picture, she looked familiar to me, and yet I knew I hadn’t read anything by her before. Only when I read in her bio that she had previously published under the name Melanie Hauser did I realize who she was.
Five or so years ago, before I blogged here at Books and Movies, I kept a personal blog Mommy Brain. I blogged about being a mom, homeschooling, and also, books. As I became more and more drawn to book blogging, I began to receive offers of review copies. Two of the first books I received to review were Confessions of Super Mom and Super Mom Saves the World by Melanie Hauser. I enjoyed both of these books immensely, as well as the author’s blog. (Though reading my early attempts at book reviewing makes me cringe!) When she quit blogging and disappeared from the online world, I wondered what happened, and whether or not she was continuing to write.
Well, I am very happy to say that she did continue to write – only under the name Melanie Benjamin, and in a completely different genre. And while I loved the Super Mom books for their witty humor and her way of capturing the frustrations of a wife and mother, I must say that Ms. Benjamin has found her true calling in writing historical fiction.
Alice I Have Been is one of the best works of historical fiction I have read in a while. The author perfectly captures the voice of Alice, and the world she inhabits. So intricately detailed and crafted is the world of Oxford and the time period Alice resides in that it almost reads like a memoir or autobiography. As I listened, I lived in England with Alice. I felt her feelings, understood her thoughts, cried her tears.
The best kind of book will make you happy-sad when you turn the last page – or listen to the last few sentences. Happy that such a book exists in the world; sad that it is over. Alice I Have Been is that kind of book. Highly, highly recommended.
Audio notes: At first, I was hesitant about the choice of Samantha Eggar to voice Alice’s story. While the story is told by the older Alice looking back, I wasn’t sure she could pull off the younger Alice’s voice in the earlier scenes. I was wrong – she was a perfect choice, and I will always hear her voice in my head when I think of Alice.