After Alice by Gregory Maguire
Published by Headline
Published 27 October 2015 (first published 1 October 2015)
WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT
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 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, arriving a moment too late, 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 bring her safely home from this surreal world below the world. The White Rabbit, the Cheshire Cat and the bloodthirsty Queen of Hearts interrupt their mad tea party to suggest a conundrum: if Eurydice can ever be returned to the arms of Orpheus, or if Lazarus can be raised from the tomb, perhaps Alice can be returned to life.
Either way, everything that happens next is After Alice.
Were there a god in charge of a story – I mean one cut to Old Testament specifics, some hybrid of Zeus and Father Christmas – such a creature, such a diety, might be looking down upon a day opening in Oxford, England, a bit past the half-way mark of the nineteenth century.
WHAT I THOUGHT
After Alice is a huge disappointment. I usually love Maguire’s books (Wicked is one of my all-time favourites) and had huge expectations for this book which ultimately fails to deliver. I loved the idea of a rational child falling down the rabbit hole and trying to make sense of the craziness to be found. This could have been such fun, showing Ada refusing to admit what she’s seeing, maybe she could gradually accept it or convince herself she’s merely dreaming. A lot of possibilities could be explored but they’re not. It doesn’t take Ada long to turn into another Alice, chatting to the Queen of Hearts as if nothing out of the ordinary is going on. About three-quarters of the book revolve around Alice’s sister Lydia and the house staff looking for Alice who’s disappeared. None of these sections are interesting. I was bored most of the time. The sections with Ada in Wonderland were the best bit about the book but they weren’t fantastic and had a sense of been here, done this and seen this all before. There are also sections of the book where Maguire rambles on about slavery, Victorianism and evolution which had no place in the book which should have been a fun, fantastic read and not a social commentary. After Alice is just so boring. Nothing interesting happens. Ada meets characters we’ve already met before and has a chat and that’s about it. I would not recommend this.