Everything about this book is beautiful. I didn't want it to end, but couldn't help turning the pages because it was, once again, so beautifully written, except for, maybe the last part (more on that later).
I especially liked Alice's voice and seeing her change from an innocent, free-willed girl to a strong, confident young woman. Benjamin is excellent at capturing Alice's conflicts emotionally. (She managed to do the same with 'Mrs. Tom Thumb') My favorite is the 7-year-old Alice. She was exactly as depicted in Alice in Wonderland - vivacious, full of wonder and ever so vocal!
Alice's love life was nothing but complicated. It's almost as though she was not meant for love. She attracted it for sure; men were drawn to her like moth to a flame, but maybe she was not meant to live it. Prince Leopold was the only man she ever professed her love to, but it ended up bitter. Mr Hargreaves claimed she was his love at first sight. But Alice never truly loved him, until it was too late.
Mr Dodgson on the other hand, as much as she hated to admit it, had a special place in her heart. There was always that longing for him in her voice.
'"Alice", the man in the hat said tenderly - only it was Leo. "Alice, be happy. Be happy with me."
"Of course," I said with a contented sigh. "Of course. I'll always be happy with you, my love."
But no - the man in the hat was not Leo, he was not Regi. He was Mr. Dodgson. I opened my eyes, my girl's eyes, clear and sharp, no need for spectacles, and saw only him. His soft brown hair curling at the ends, his kind blue eyes, no higher than the other.'
That summer, that particular moment that started and ended it all, she was happy, 'I will always believe - the two of us were."'
Ever since that day, she hated talking about him, too afraid the truth will tear her apart.
They were both such romantics. Mr Dodgson, I think, was the only man who was capable of loving her as she was, accepting her eccentricities, her passion for life and intelligence. He was her equal. I think their relationship would have turned out differently if they had met at a different time.
I admire Benjamin's ability to bring a character as enigmatic as Alice come to live. Like 'Mrs Tom Thumb', she created another poignant historical fiction based on research. It takes a very skillful writer to turn a novel of this genre into a keeper.
In my opinion, to be able to write a historical fiction as good as this, one must let dream take over...
'Words, pictures, questions, and finally - dreams; it always begins with a dream, doesn't it? Alice's dream by the river, her head in her sister's lap, dreaming of a rabbit, a white rabbit; my dream also. My dreams.' (p. 338)
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