My rating: 4 of 5 stars
On now legendary “golden afternoon” during the summer of 1862, Oxford mathematician Charles Dodgson (pen name Lewis Carroll) escorted the ten year old Alice Liddell and two of her sisters a rowing excursion on the Isis. The tale he spun for the girls that day became the timeless classic “Alice in Wonderland.” Dodgson and Alice shared a “particular” friendship, during which he freqently visited her family and made photographs of her in various exotic poses. Because she was the daughter of the Dean of Christ Church, the Oxford community paid particular attention to that relationship.
Alice, of course, could not remain in Wonderland, for she had to grow up, and in adulthood, the friendship came to an end. Since that time, much has been made of Dodgson’s attraction to young girls and the nature of the photos in which they were featured. Now Melanie Benjamin relates a version of the real Alice’s life and “adventures”, told from Alice’s own perspective. This is a somewhat erotic tale, though very much understated, one that ultimately becomes a journey of self discovery. The gossip surrounding her and Dodgson was pervasive, and until she was quite elderly, Alice, now the widow of Reginald Hargreaves, she resisted discussing that relationship with anyone. As the reader follows Alice through her life, many of the lesser known facets are brought to light. But always, the looking glass reflects back to her that now misty early period.
Keeping in mind that this is a work of historical fiction, take this opportunity to accompany the real Alice, who had dark hair, not blond, down the famous rabbit hole.