Saturday, July 31, 2010

Alice I Have Been

Melanie Benjamin's Alice I Have Been was a bit befuddling, but not in a frustrating way. Hence, I've put off writing about, and now feel even more directionless.

It is historical fiction. The real Alice, that is, the young girl who inspired Alice in Wonderland, was in a somewhat sketchy relationship with the man who would become Lewis Carroll. Alice narrates the story as an old woman and takes us through her life up to her present.

It is a slowly unfolding story with details of clothing and mores of mid-19th-century Oxford. It is somewhat unsettling but not as creepy as it might sound. It's subtle and the writing is lush.

One thing I can do for this book is identify a readalike--a nonfiction one, no less! Michael Holroyd's A Strange Eventful History is an epic biography of Ellen Terry and Henry Irving, who became stage famous in England around the same time period as Benjamin's novel. There is a large cast of strange characters and artists, and the details well evoke the time period.

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