Charles Lutwidge Dodgson was a shy Oxford mathematician, reverend, and pioneering photographer. Under the pen name Lewis Carroll he wrote two stunning classics that liberated children's literature from the constraints of Victorian moralism.
But the exact nature of his relationship with Alice Liddell, daughter of the dean of his college, and the young girl who was his muse and subject, remains mysterious. Dodgson met Alice in 1856, when she was almost four years old. Eventually he would capture her in his photographs, and transform the stories he told her into the luminous Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass.
Then, suddenly, when Alice was eleven, the Liddell family shut him out, and his relationship with Alice ended abruptly. The pages from Dodgson's diary that may have explained the rift have disappeared.
In imagining what might have happened, one of America’s most provocative young writers, Katie Roiphe, has created a deep, richly textured fictional portrait of Alice and Dodgson: she changing from an unruly child to a bewitching adolescent, and he, a diffident, neurasthenic adult whose increasing obsession with her almost destroys him.
Here, too, is a brilliantly realized cast of characters that surround them: Lorina Liddell, Alice's mother, who loves her daughter even as she envies her youth; Edith Liddell, Alice's resentful little sister; and James Hunt, Dodgson's speech therapist, an island of sanity in Dodgson's increasingly chaotic world.
Beautifully crafted, prodigiously researched, Still She Haunts Me is an announcement of a deft and original novelist, even as it is a singular work of art.
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They are like Zeno’s famous paradox: If you divide the space between you and an object in half and then go to that point, and divide the existing space in half and go to that point, you will never actually reach the object. And that is how it is with them. Even when Dodgson and Alice are standing inches apart, the space hangs between them, infinite, lovely, loaded with her scent.
– from Still She Haunts Me
Katie Roiphe received her Ph.D. from Princeton in English literature. Her articles have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Esquire, Harper’s, and The New Yorker, among many others. Her previous books are The Morning After and Last Night in Paradise. She lives in New York City.
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