Review: Alice, I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin

by Melanie Benjamin

I am one of those people that had no idea there was a REAL girl named Alice behind Alice in Wonderland…that is, until I read a gem of a novel written by a new voice on the scene, Melanie Benjamin. And I am so glad that her book Alice, I Have Been was my introduction to this very fascinating and endearing woman whose childhood will be forever connected with Wonderland.

Alice Liddell was the daughter of the Dean of the prestigious college, Christ Church at Oxford and was raised there along with her siblings. She was the wild child compared to her compliant sisters, independent to their dutiful, always getting in trouble and underfoot, precocious to a fault. Her inquisitiveness drove adults to exasperation. All but one. Charles Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll, was a math professor at Oxford and a close friend of the Liddell family and would often take Alice and her two sisters out on day trips, where he would tell them stories and take their pictures. Though he was friendly with all three, it was Alice that was his favorite. It was on one such day trip that the story for Alice in Wonderland was born. Unlike his other stories, Dodgson, at Alice’s begging, wrote it down and the rest is history!

Alice Liddell.  Photographed by Charles Dodgson.

In Alice, I Have Been Melanie Benjamin takes us beyond Wonderland and examines the life of the girl behind the story and the woman she became. A woman who ended up trapped by the very childhood she, at one time, never wanted to give up. We watch Alice as she grows up, as she finds love, but also loss. We watch as she attempts to come to terms with her notoriety, to find out who she really is inside, away from the girl in the book. There is also a bit of a dark aspect to this novel, which I think the author covered tastefully. We know that years after the publication of Alice in Wonderland the Liddell family and Dodgson had a falling out, but no one is sure why. I’d have to say that Benjamin’s conclusion seems plausible, if not a little disturbing.

Benjamin’s writing is impeccable and while immersed in it, you forget that it’s not auto-biography…that’s how close to Alice you feel. Every character has their own distinct personality and you feel for all of them. Now, I usually find it hard to read a story which has a child narrator, but not so in this case. In the beginning of the novel, young Alice had me giggling out loud and I just fell in love with her instantly!

So, please, if you listen to anything I have to say this year, please let it be this….READ ALICE, I HAVE BEEN!!!!  You will LOVE it!

Bottom Line:  This book had me from hello.


Novel Soundtracks:

"No More I Love Yous" - sung by Annie Lennox (Alice and Leo)
"Whiter Shade of Pale" - sung by Annie Lennox (Alice and Lewis)

FCC:  Alice, I Have Been was sent to me by the publisher for review.




  1. I know ALL ABOUT Alice Liddell as this lady I used to work with was obsessed with Alice in Wonderland and she told me all about her. There's even a museum in England you can visit. Sounds like a great book!

  2. Thanks for the great review of Melanie's book. I have to admit to not knowing about the real Alice, so this book is especially interesting to me. I haven't read it yet, but it's definitely on my wish list.

    This book has already received good reviews during Melanie's virtual book tour. If your readers would like to check out the other blogs who have featured Alice I Have Been, they can visit

    Thanks again.


  3. I have this lined-up next to read. Can't wait to read it, now!

  4. Great review Amy, it sounds amazing! I am really looking forward to reading this novel.

  5. I actually hadn't initially been that interested in this book. But after your review Amy, how can I pass it up. It sounds fascinating. Thanks.

  6. I have to say this review upped the chances I will read this book.

  7. Our library ordered it and it came in today. Should have it on the shelf tomorrow. Can't wait to read it.

  8. Oh Amy, I always listen to you! And yes, i am going to put this one right in my wishlist :)
    I need to figure out how to get this one here :)

    AND LOVELY template!!

    Did u forget me?! I was on a break ... am back :)

  9. Wow, I think i need to read this one. Like you I didn't know there was a girl called Alice either!! It sounds so good and i do adore the cover of the book.

  10. I have heard so much good about this book, I definitely have to read it. I already knew Alice was inspired by a real Alice, but I don't know the story. Thanks for another great review! :)

  11. I completely agree with your assessment. I had forgotten about this book until I came across your review, and I've just revised my "best books of 2012" to include it at the very top. I, too, had no idea that a real Alice existed, and I, too, was gotten from the first sentence. It says something that I still recall a sentence from the beginning of the book, not an important one at all to the story, but an amusing one, all these months later: about how the women all appeared to have no legs. Great book!


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