Literary Quote of the Month

"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies," said Jojen. "The man who never reads lives only one." - George R.R. Martin, A Dance With Dragons

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin... Virtual Book Tour and Review!

Tumble down the rabbit hole with the real Alice in Wonderland...

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 Hargreaves’s 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.

I never really thought about the real Alice. Aren't most characters in a story inspired by someone or something? But when I heard all the buzz about Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin, I became fascinated. It seems that the author of Alice in Wonderland, Charles Dodgeson (who wrote under the pen name of Lewis Carroll) met young Alice Liddell and her rather large family while photographing the cathedral at Oxford... Alice Liddell's father was appointed to the deanery at Christ Church, Oxford... Alice was 5 years old at the time... And Dodgeson's fascination with the young girls , Alice & her two sisters, began... And Melanie Benjamin does a wonderful job blending history with fact. She captures the precociousness of the real Alice, and the Alice we all know from Alice in Wonderland.

The story is told through the eyes of Alice. We meet her family, including the sisters she was most close with, Lorina & Edith, her governess, the servants, Charles Dodgeson, and even Royalty. The story goes beyond Alice and the man who wrote the story that would keep her a child forever... Melanie shows us how sisters can love and hate each other. There is jealousy, deceptions and an underlying uncomfortableness in the fascination that Charles Dodgeson has with Alice. There is love, first kisses and consequences. Melanie's writing is compelling in the voice of Alice and I found myself not being able to put the book down. The story also does a perfect job of showcasing the restrictions on young women during the victorian age. How each and every action and the way a young lady dressed all played a part of a "proper" upbringing and how rumors and speculation can ruin a reputation, whether or not the rumors were founded. I don't want to give too much away here, but I felt so much empathy for Alice as her life seemed to fall apart! You'll know what I mean when you READ THIS BOOK!

The book opens with Alice reflecting on her life as a woman of eighty. It gives one just enough story to grab ones interest, and it does not disappoint. I just loved Alice, she was such an interesting character, the way she observed the people and the world around her was refreshing. Alice I Have Been was a wonderful read. Melanie Benjamin has flushed out the life and loves of Alice Liddell and this is one book not to miss! As Melanie moves from Alice the young girl to Alice the adult, she doesn't miss a beat. The story is just as interesting and the ending is perfect. This would be a great book club selection! Plenty of novel for a lively discussion! Check out the Alice I Have Been Reading Group Guide. HEY! Cheryl of Pump Up Your Book is going to sponsor a giveaway for a copy of Alice I Have Been for my Blogoversary!!! Thank you so much Cheryl! So, check back during the blogoversary celebration starting Feb. 18th to see what giveaways are going on! Don't miss your chance to win this book!

About the Melanie Benjamin & Alice I Have Been...
"I was inspired to write Alice I Have Been after unexpectedly viewing a photographic exhibit called "Dreaming in Pictures: The Photography of Lewis Carroll." Among the many photographs there, all taken by the man who wrote Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, one stood out to me. It was of a young girl clad only in rags, but with an expression on her face that stopped me in my tracks. She was so adult, so frank, so worldly, as she gazed at the man behind the camera. She was 7-year-old Alice Liddell, the daughter of Dean Henry Liddell of Christ Church, Oxford. It was to her that Lewis Carroll--or Charles Dodgson, as she knew him--told the story of a little girl who tumbled down a rabbit hole. She was the one who begged him to write it down. I wondered what happened to her after she grew up; I wondered what happened between the two of them to result in such a startling photograph."

Melanie Benjamin lives in the Chicago area with her husband and two sons, where she is working on her next historical novel. Visit her website at

I want to thank Random House and Cheryl of Pump Up You Book Promotion Virtual Book Tours for the opportunity to review Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin. This was part of Melanie Benjamin's Virtual Book Tour. AliceI Have Been is now available from your local bookstore or online retailer! *P.S. This Book is Kindle Ready!


Cheryl said...

Thanks for the great review of Melanie's book. It has been very popular with bloggers during this tour.

I wasn't sure if I wanted to read this one before the tour started, but after all the excellent reviews it has received, I am going to download it to my Kindle.

Thanks again.


(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

Thanks for the terrific review. I enjoyed this one as well -different!

fantasylover12001 said...

I am super excited for this book. You also have to applaud the publishers timing as The Alice in Wonderland movie is right around the corner (ten bucks says that was planned).

Suzanne Yester said...

Hi Cheryl,
I hope you will enjoy the book! I thought the idea of Alice looking back on her life was an interesting concept. And Melanie Benjamin really blended fact with fiction beautifully! Let me know what you thought after you finish it!

Suzanne Yester said...

Hi Diane,
Yes, I really knew nothing of Lewis Carroll prior to reading his Alice in Wonderland books, but when I did a bit of research into the real Alice Liddell before cracking the spine on Melanie Benjamin's book, I was very surprised at some of the rumors about Carroll. I think the author did a great job creating this interesting underlying mood between Alice and Carroll.

Suzanne Yester said...

Hi fantasylover12001,
I'm with you- perfect timing! I also downloaded Alice in Wonderland to read again now that this book sparked my interest again!

Anonymous said...

I've been wanting to read this book!

Great review!

I have an award for you HERE

Melissa said...

Great review. I'm really looking forward to this book, Suzanne. I was a photography minor so I studied some about Lewis Carroll and his photographs so I knew all about the rumors about him and Alice (and the pictures are somewhat interesting). I think he's about the only author I've approached from a totally non-literature standpoint. I didn't read Alice in Wonderland until after my photography courses. I'm curious to see what this author has to say on their relationship.

Keda said...

this is a book I would love to read... i can just tell.

Esme said...

I cannot wait to read this book-my library has it. Yippee. Given I have been in trial-my sleep and reading have taken backstage.

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