Real people in books

the book:

After Such Kindness by Gaynor Arnold

published 2012  chapter 2

At a quarter past nine, Nettie, Benjy and I went downstairs. I had on my best white dress with blue piping and a blue silk sash, and was already feeling very hot. Nettie had put more ribbons than usual in my hair so as to fix the ringlets in position, but I knew the curls would be out before the end of the day, especially once I’d put on my straw hat. It was the absolute sinful desire of my life to have natural curls like my sisters. Each strand of their hair was always very well-behaved and fell in exactly the same way at the end of the day as at the beginning. I watched them now, sitting demurely side by side on the piano stool, wearing grown-up dresses with extremely puffed sleeves and with silver bangles around their wrists. They always seemed so much older than me, although Christiana was only fifteen and a half and Sarah a year younger. They were both tall, like Papa, whereas I was small for my age and, to my continued mortification, always being mistaken for someone much younger.

observations: The child is called Daisy, or Margaret, but the whole book is plainly based on the story of Alice Liddell, the original of Alice in Wonderland. The hair in the photo is very different from the hair in the extract, and this is quite a feature of the novel – Daisy cuts her own hair, to her mother’s horror. The photo is of the original Alice, and she is a remarkably striking child – Clothes in Books looks at photos all the time, frequently featuring children, and Alice stands out a mile. It is also true that it is very rare for a child of her era and social position to have the short-ish hair in this photo.

This is Gaynor Arnold’s second book fictionalizing the lives of prominent Victorians – the first was the marvellous Girl in a Blue Dress about Charles Dickens and his wife Kate. (Which could have been a title for this one: Alice in Wonderland is usually portrayed in a blue dress).

Links up with: The real Alice has appeared before, as a
beggar girl. The heroine of this novel suffers from amnesia, and a notebook is key, as in this book. Getting curls into your hair is discussed in this entry.

The picture of Alice Liddell can be found on
Wikimedia Commons.


  1. My goodness, she IS striking! So pleased to see the real Alice. Thank you!


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