Book Review: After Alice

After Alice
By Gregory Maguire

My Edition:
Paperback, 273 pages
2015, William Morrow
ISBN: 9780060859749

Ada has been somewhat overlooked since the birth of her brother, so she manages to wander off and tumbles down the rabbit hole in Alice’s wake.

Unfortunately, since I didn’t enjoy the book and certainly didn’t understand the purpose or theme of the story, that’s about all I have to say about the plot. I’m incredibly disappointed with this book, because I love much of Maguire’s other work and I’m a big fan of Alice as well. I figured I’d be diving into a new perspective on Wonderland, while keeping with the time period.

In a nutshell, what I received was a bland rehashing of the original story, mixed with seemingly pointless chapters about Alice’s sister and Darwin (and maybe some commentary on slavery? I’m not sure) and stuffed to the gills with pretentious vocabulary. Don’t get me wrong, I like to learn a new word now and then, but I have zero patience for books that require me to keep my dictionary handy for practically every page. I gave up my research a handful of pages in.

Ada should have been an engaging character – she’s very literal-minded, which would be a challenge in Wonderland, and she also suffers from a disability. Yet, moments after falling down the rabbit hole, Ada no longer needs the apparatus that helps her walk and she soon stops being puzzled by all the nonsense surrounding her and moves through the crazy world with little to no difficulty. As a result, she became  as bland as the rest of the cast.

Ada is essentially following Alice, visiting all the main characters that appear in the original book (which, I’ll admit, while I do collect it, I prefer the Disney movie over Carroll’s text), but none of the scenes felt fresh or reimagined in any way. It felt more like a vague tour of popular Wonderland hotspots and I vacillated between bored and confused while reading.

When we’re not reading about Ada, we’re stuck listening to Lydia complain about her life and try to flirt with some guy (though she really seemed annoyed with him) and those chapters were even worse than Ada’s. I’m clueless as to why Lydia was the other main character, because I don’t think she had much depth, nor do I think she added to Alice’s backstory.

Bottom line, I hated this book. But it was so dull and confusing that I couldn’t even build up any hatefire for it. I don’t like to feel that way about something from one of my favorite writers, but I have to be honest. I almost didn’t finish this book, but I bought it new and the cover was pretty and it was Maguire so I pushed through. But I wouldn’t recommend this book for fans of Alice or Maguire. If you haven’t read any of his work and you enjoy fairy tale retellings, I highly recommend Mirror Mirror or Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister instead.

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