9780385344135

Alice I Have Been

by
  • ISBN13:

    9780385344135

  • ISBN10:

    0385344139

  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 1/12/2010
  • Publisher: Delacorte Press

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Summary

Few works of literature are as universally beloved as Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Now, in this spellbinding historical novel, we meet the young girl whose bright spirit sent her on an unforgettable trip down the rabbit hole-- and the grown woman whose story is no less enthralling. But oh my dear, I am tired of being Alice in Wonderland. Does it sound ungrateful? Alice Liddell Hargreaves's life has been a richly woven tapestry: As a young woman, wife, mother, and widow, she's experienced intense passion, great privilege, and greater tragedy. But as she nears her eighty-first birthday, she knows that, to the world around her, she is and will always be only "Alice." Her life was permanently dog-eared at one fateful moment in her tenth year-- the golden summer day she urged a grown-up friend to write down one of his fanciful stories. That story, a wild tale of rabbits, queens, and a precocious young child, becomes a sensation the world over. Its author, a shy, stuttering Oxford professor, does more than immortalize Alice-- he changes her life forever. But even he cannot stop time, as much as he might like to. And as Alice's childhood slips away, a peacetime of glittering balls and royal romances gives way to the urgent tide of war. For Alice, the stakes could not be higher, for she is the mother of three grown sons, soldiers all. Yet even as she stands to lose everything she treasures, one part of her will always be the determined, undaunted Alice of the story, who discovered that life beyond the rabbit hole was an astonishing journey. A love story and a literary mystery, Alice I Have Been brilliantly blends fact and fiction to capture the passionate spirit of a woman who was truly worthy of her fictional alter ego, in a world as captivating as the Wonderland only she could inspire.

Author Biography

Melanie Benjamin lives in Illinois, where she is at work on her next novel.

Excerpts

Chapter Twelve


You look lovely—that rose tulle over the tarlatan is perfection! Oh, I do wish I was going!” Covering her face with her handkerchief, Edith coughed fitfully and then fell back against her pillows, her hair a tangled mess of curls. Her face was nearly as red as her hair.

 “Yes, you’d be a perfect vision, with all that coughing! I know it’s unfair, and Aubrey will be vexed, but you know what Dr. Acland said. You’re to stay in bed for a week, at least.” 

“It’s so unlucky! And for once I thought I’d be the belle of the ball instead of you! Papa was going to announce the engagement tonight.” Edith smiled weakly, and turned her head to sigh over the beautiful blue taffeta gown hanging in the cupboard. 

“I’m never the belle of the ball when you’re present, so I relish the chance tonight. May I borrow your diamond star clip for my hair?” 

“Yes, of course—it’ll look wonderful with your diamond earrings!” 

I smiled my thanks and rummaged around in her jewel case until I found the clip; dancing over to the looking glass above the mantel, I pinned it in my hair, just above my left ear. “Is this right, do you think?” I turned. 

“It’s perfect. Oh dear!” And Edith was off on another coughing fit again. 

“Poor darling! I’ll ring for the nurse—Dr. Acland said we weren’t to get too close, in case it’s measles. I do wish I could give you a kiss, though, before I fly. I’m rather excited for tonight—silly, but I am! How many Commemoration Balls have I attended? ” 

“None like tonight,” Edith managed to choke out, between coughs. Finally they subsided, and she fell back against her pillows once more. “Do you think the Prince will propose, then?” 

“I really don’t know, but perhaps he—might.” I was too superstitious to say more, even if I could not stop myself from smiling in anticipation. We had made so many plans in these last few days, as his time at Oxford drew to an end; some were quite unattainable (I doubted, for instance, that the Queen would countenance Leo’s idea of moving to America in order to organize the recently emancipated slaves into helping the British recapture the colonies), but others more down to earth. I knew he had also spoken to Papa. Yet there remained the matter of obtaining the Queen’s permission, and I had not been able to ask if he had written her. 

Still, I sensed it, my future; it was close, so close I could wrap my arms around it; wrap my arms aroundhim. Perhaps, tonight, he would simply waltz me out of Oxford, right under everyone’s noses. 

Giggling, I began to waltz around Edith’s room, holding my skirts up, showing off my new silk dancing slippers. Edith giggled, too—as best she could—but when she began to cough again, I stopped. 

“Oh, I’m making you much worse! I’ll finish my toilette in my own room. You rest now, darling, and I’ll save you a program and tell you all the gossip in the morning.” 

“Oh, I do wish I could go!” She couldn’t help but shed a tear, even as she beamed at me from the depths of her pillows, looking like a dyspeptic angel in her white nightgown. “Keep Aubrey company! And I can’t wait to congratulate you in the morning!” 

“Good night!” I blew her a kiss, then hurried out of her room, shutting the door softly be

Excerpted from Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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