Review: After Alice by Gregory Maguire

OUADT Rating: 2/5
OUADT recommends this book to: hardcore Alice in Wonderland fans

after alice

I’ve never come across someone who didn’t like Alice in Wonderland. Be it the original book by Lewis Carroll or the 2010 film version, with Johnny Depp’s legendary performance as mat hatter, Alice’s adventures still hold a place of fascination. That’s why I was even more intrigued to stumble across this re-writing by Gregory Maguire who, if you didn’t know, is also the author of Wicked. Yet, when I started reading it, I realised that my expectations had been way too high.

Summary: When Alice fell down the rabbit hole, she found Wonderland as rife with inconsistent rules and abrasive egos as the world she left behind. But how did Victorian Oxford react to Alice’s disappearance?

Gregory Maguire turns his imagination to the question of underworlds, undergrounds, underpinnings- and understandings of old and new, offering an inventive spin on Carroll’s enduring tale. Ada, a friend mentioned briefly in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, sets out to visit Alice but arrives a moment too late. Tumbling down the rabbit hole herself, she embarks on an odyssey to find Alice and bring her safely home from this surreal world below the world.

I don’t want to downplay how hard it must be to re-write such an iconic work. The author has all of my due respect for his bravery- even though I was not convinced by the outcome.

It took me quite some time to get into the writing. I really struggled with the language which is quite dense. Some sentences were overloaded with references and boring descriptions, which did not help to build this child-like imaginative world. The plot alternates between Ada’s adventures in Wonderland and the families that she and Alice left behind in Victorian England. To my surprise, I was more interested in the Victorian part than in Maguire’s depiction of Wonderland. It was only in the second part of the novel that I started to enjoy reading about Wonderland and simultaneously, my interest for the Victorian world waned.

I think this reading can be more enjoyable if one keeps the first sentence of the blurb in mind: When Alice fell down the rabbit hole, she found Wonderland as rife with inconsistent rules and abrasive egos as the world she left behind.

Indeed, Maguire gives an insight into nineteenth century Britain, with a focus on the early influence of Charles Darwin, the discourse surrounding slavery and the socially imposed categories for women. As for the latter,  the novel introduces the reader to Alice’s older sister, Lydia, who’s herself struggling with her identity as a fifteen-year-old Victorian lady. Unfortunately, I wished her character had more depth, instead of representing a selfish and partly vain adolescent.

Nonetheless, I didn’t give up on the book because of two points.

Firstly, Maguire’s fascination with poetics really paid off in Ada’s playful conversation with the White Knight. Secondly, the innocent but deeply caring encounter between Ada and Siam broke my heart. The passages were so strong and I wish Maguire had spent more time on developing their relationship.

The realtionship between the three children (Ada, Siam and Alice) was the strongest and most compelling aspect to the book and it finally zoomed in on the fascinating mind of children- which is so essential to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Book Details:

After Alice by Gregory Maguire
Published in 2015 by HEADLINE
Available on Amazon

 

4 thoughts on “Review: After Alice by Gregory Maguire

  1. Have you read Wicked? I read it in high school and enjoyed it, but when I tried rereading it this past year I struggled with it a lot and ended up giving up. From your description it sounds like After Alice wouldn’t be my kind of book either. Great review, though! 🙂

    1. Thank you! No, I haven’t read Wicked but that doesn’t sound too promising. Perhaps his writing is just not our cup of tea 😉

    1. Just give it a try. I think his writing is very particular and you might enjoy it, who knows 🙂

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