Friday, January 22, 2010

Alice I Have Been

When I was a little girl, I used to dread visiting my Grandma & Grandpa Trever. They didn't have toys, didn't allow TV watching while "visiting", and I was required to sit quietly while the adults talked about people I didn't know and things I didn't care about. As I grew older, I came to appreciate my grandparents for the amazing people they were, but the conversations still flew around me, so I ventured carefully and respectfully throughout the house looking for amusement, which I found in abundance in the attic.

Grandma & Grandpa Trever had the kind of attic that is described in all sorts of stories. It was filled with mysterious boxes and trunks. In one corner was a tall dresser filled with pictures (including my uncle's first wedding! I didn't even know he had been married before). I found a picture of Grandma dressed in a fur coat with her hair bobbed short and looking glamorous. I discovered her older sister's senior picture and class yearbooks from 1921 & 1922 (to my despair, when Grandpa died, the yearbooks were thrown out as garbage). I would dash down the two sets of stairs with my find and ask Grandma and Grandpa to explain who each person was or what the memento was for. Finally, I was able to listen to the conversations about family and understand the connections between us.

Some of my favorite finds up there were the collection of vintage Christmas ornaments (many of which grace my tree each year) that outshone any that I had seen before. But with my lifelong love of books, it's not surprising that when I discovered the boxes of old books, I was lost. I asked Grandma if I could borrow them, one at a time of course, and read not just the story inside, but also the inscription inside the front cover that told a tale of a family who loved to read as well. When Grandpa died, and the house was sold, I was still in possession of a 1920s edition of Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. Written in careful cursive script inside the front cover was Diane Trever, my dad's older sister. I asked her and Grandma if I could keep the book, and no one minded. I've read the book a few times and always loved the color plates inside that brought the story to life in a way that Disney never managed for me. I can't wait to read it to Mia when she gets a bit older. That book is one of my favorite possessions, so when given the opportunity to review today's book, I couldn't wait!

Alice I Have Been
by Melanie Benjamin is the reimagined life of Alice Pleasance Lidell, more famously known as Alice in Wonderland. The Lidell family lived in Oxford where the father was the Dean of the college and Charles Dodgson, who would later gain fame as Lewis Carroll, was a mathematics professor. Dodgson had a fascination with Alice and her sister, Ina and Edith, and often took them for walks and out on a boat, accompanied by their governess, but he was more attached to Alice in a way that has been speculated about for over a century. She grew up to be wooed by a Prince and build a family of her own, but she never shook the mantle of Alice in Wonderland, eventually going on a speaking tour about the famous character. Benjamin brings to life the little girl who inspired one of the most famous children's books in history but as an adult wanted little to do with that identity. Alice is precocious and certain in her desire to never grow up, but Benjamin creates a mystery as to exactly what happened between Dodgson and Alice and builds a compelling and exciting novel about Alice. This is a must read for fans of the classic book or of historical fiction.

Thank you to Virtual Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book for review.

Today's picture is Grandma & Grandpa Trever's wedding picture. They eloped in a rather romantic manner. I love how Grandpa's hair is sticking up in the air!


Cheryl said...

Thanks for the great review of Melanie's book. It has been very popular during the tour, receiving many great reviews. Thank you for sharing your family photo and your grandparents' story. That makes this review so special.


Jill said...

I enjoyed the book too. What a wonderful story about your grandparents. It is so sad what gets thrown out when loved ones pass away or when people downsize to smaller homes. So many treasures get lost in the shuffle!