After Alice by Gregory Maguire

"How very like a dream this all is."

Gregory Maguire, author of the bestselling novel Wicked, is back with his latest novel, a re-imagining of Lewis Carroll's classic Alice in Wonderland. Whether you've read Carroll's novel or seen any of the numerous film adaptations of the work, you are probably familiar with Alice's adventures in the strange Wonderland. But what about Alice's family? How did they cope with her mysterious disappearance? And what kind of impact did Alice's presence in Wonderland have on all of those curious characters that she came across? As he's done in most of his other novels, Gregory Maguire uses After Alice to fill in the gaps and answer some of these questions.

Young Ada is around the same age as her neighbor Alice. She wears an unwieldy contraption that is intended to correct her posture, but the device only accentuates her awkward personality and deters many potential playmates. Alice, however, has never seemed to mind Ada. Whether Alice truly enjoys Ada's company or is simply too preoccupied with her own fantasies to notice the other girl's presence, she is the closest thing to a friend that Ada has.

One day, Ada is asked to take some homemade marmalade to Alice's house. As she wanders into her friend's yard, she sees a peculiar sight. A small white rabbit adorned in a waistcoat and clutching a pocket watch stands before her. As the animal runs off, Ada follows. She suddenly falls through a rabbit hole and is thrust into a crazy world populated by odd characters. As the novel progresses, Ada travels a few steps behind Alice's famed journey and aims to reconnect with her friend and find her way back home.

Parallel to this is the story of Alice's older sister Lydia. Lydia is supposed to be keeping watch of her sister, when the girl descends into Wonderland. She isn't worried at first. Alice is notorious for exploring their grounds. But when Ada too is noticed to be missing, Lydia begins to worry about the two girls. She hesitates to interrupt her father who is meeting with Charles Darwin. When Ada's housemaid comes looking for the girl, Lydia enlists her help.

This is my first novel by Gregory Maguire. After the high praises of Wicked and his other works, I was eager to get my hands on this one. Maguire's writing style takes a bit of time to get used to. He writes in a way that seems to hearken back to the Victorian era that this story occurs in. The entire novel is approached with a high-brow air of superiority that initially caught me off guard. While this could certainly be an attempt to mimic Lewis Carroll's prose, it ends up coming off more as an unnecessarily pretentious device that does little to enhance the story.

The story itself is equally confounding. The parts that focus on Lydia offer many promising insights about a young woman's role and expectations in Victorian Era England. By introducing Charles Darwin as a guest to the family's residence, Maguire also explores issues of science, evolution, and race. This narrative could easily have been fleshed out into a fascinating novel on its own. However, by placing this thread alongside the surprisingly less vibrant Wonderland narrative, Maguire ultimately does not have enough book to adequately devote attention to either plot. In the end, After Alice is a novel that is full of interesting elements that never reach a cohesively satisfying whole.

For more information, visit the author's website, Amazon, and GoodReads.

(2015, 33)

This entry was posted on Friday, November 13, 2015 and is filed under ,,,,,,,. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response.

2 Responses to “After Alice by Gregory Maguire”

  1. Oh, it sounds like this one was a bit disappointing. I was wanting to read this one, but I haven't read the most encouraging reviews if I am honest. I really wish this one was going to be better, but the writing style seems off and unnecessary, like it adds very little to the story. It sounds like a book with potential, but one that could use a lot more work.

    1. Frankly, I think others have done this kind of story better.


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