Book Review | After Alice by Gregory Maguire

After Alice by Gregory Maguire

Published by William Morrow on October 1, 2015

Genres: Adult, Historical Fiction, Fantasy

Format: eARC

Pages: 273

Source: Edelweiss

Goodreads

From the multi-million-copy bestselling author of Wicked comes a magical new twist on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, published to coincide with the 150th anniversary of Lewis’s Carroll’s beloved classic

When Alice toppled down the rabbit-hole 150 years ago, she found a Wonderland as rife with inconsistent rules and abrasive egos as the world she left behind. But what of that world? How did 1860s Oxford react to Alice’s disappearance?

In this brilliant new work of fiction, Gregory Maguire turns his dazzling imagination to the question of underworlds, undergrounds, underpinnings — and understandings old and new, offering an inventive spin on Carroll’s enduring tale. Ada, a friend of Alice’s mentioned briefly in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, is off to visit her friend, but arrives a moment too late — and tumbles down the rabbit hole herself.

Ada brings to Wonderland her own imperfect apprehension of cause and effect as she embarks on an odyssey to find Alice and see her safely home from this surreal world below the world. If Euridyce can ever be returned to the arms of Orpheus, or Lazarus can be raised from the tomb, perhaps Alice can be returned to life. Either way, everything that happens next isAfter Alice.

REVIEW

After Alice by Gregory Maguire is a retelling of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. While I’ve not yet read the beloved classic, I did read and enjoy Maguire’s Wicked several years ago. Unfortunately, After Alice was not my cup of tea, and I struggled to get through the novel despite its short length.

The main reason why I had a difficult time with After Alice is the flowery and complex writing. I’ve been reading so much young adult literature lately that it can sometimes be hard to transition back to adult. I did settle into the book’s pace after a while, but I honestly never got into the writing style completely. The vocabulary was difficult to follow, partly because this is a historical fiction book. This dense writing slowed down the pace of the book, and I even put it down to read another book at one point.

Moreover, there are a few things I really did enjoy about After Alice. First, I thought the setting was really interesting. The book takes place in Oxford, England in the 1860s, and follows two families of the time. Ada is the daughter of a vicar, and suffers from a physical handicap that makes it difficult for her to walk. Her only friend is Alice, of the original Wonderland story, who lives nearby. I really enjoyed learning about the society of the time when it comes to family, race, the class system, and more. I did learn quite a bit, and it’s always nice for fiction to teach a thing or two about history. Charles Darwin is even a character!

In addition, I kept reading the book because I wanted to know what was going to happen. Ada ends up falling into Wonderland, and she is trying to find Alice so she can bring her home. Ada meets many of the familiar Wonderland faces along the way, so I was intrigued to find out if she would find Alice after all. Unfortunately, the ending was a bit lackluster to me, and a bit of a let down in the end.

Thus, while there are a lot of aspects of After Alice that I did enjoy, my reading experience was not a great one. I think it would have improved significantly if the book was constructed in a different way. For example, the point-of-view, though always in third-person, changed randomly throughout the story. Sometimes we are following Ada in Wonderland, other times her governess Miss Armstrong and Alice’s sister Lydia. This constant switch did create suspense in the story, but it also was quite confusing. I also found that many aspects of the book were skimmed over when I wish they were explored more.

While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend After Alice, I think if you enjoy retellings of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland this might be more your style. I did enjoy the book I read by Maguire in the past, so I’m not giving up on his writing completely. One day I want to return to his Wicked series, and I would also love to hear your thoughts on his books in a comment.

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