Alice I Have Been

Alice I Have Been (2009) is historical fiction based on the life of Alice Liddell, the girl who inspired the fictional Alice in Wonderland. Full disclosure: I have never read Lewis Carroll’s classic, although I’m aware of the characters and general overview.

Alice Liddell was the daughter of an Oxford dean and lived across the square from Charles Dodgson, a math professor who later became known by his nom de plume. He was an early adopter of photography, and photographed the Liddell sisters frequently, beginning when Alice was quite young, around 4 or 5.

I’m typically a big fan of historical fiction based on true events, but this situation was super-awkward to handle, with the big question at the center “What really happened between Alice at 11 and Mr. Dodgson?” It was written before the “Me, Too” era, and I don’t think it aged well. The author explains some of this in the Author’s Note afterwards–in that we really don’t know what happened, and she tries to get at one possibility.

Nevertheless, I was enthralled and wanted to find out what happened with Alice’s life. I wasn’t familiar with Prince Leopold, the youngest son of Queen Victoria, but the potential romance with a prince swept me away.

Overall, I’d recommend with reservations, the first being that there’s potential victimization of a child, that is unresolved; and the second in that there is a significant amount of anti-fat bias. The author has Alice describe characters as fat, or stout, in a negative way, on more than one occasion. But if you’re an Alice in Wonderland fan, you may want to read it and try to ignore the anti-fatness.

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