Review: After Alice by Gregory Maguire

Posted October 30, 2015 by Lillian in Reviews / 1 Comment

I received this book via Edelweiss. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of this review.

Review: After Alice by Gregory MaguireAfter Alice by Gregory Maguire
Published by William Morrow on 2015-10-27
Length: 288 pages
Reviewing eARC from Edelweiss

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 is After Alice.

Initial Reaction:

WHAT DID YOU DO TO MY WONDERLAND?! The first time I ever read Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland I was ten. I loved every single word, even the ones I didn’t understand at the time. As an adult, I STILL love the classic. Carroll developed a world with strange and beautiful creatures, a world where anything you can imagine happens.  It’s unique, smart, funny, and at all times strange and peculiar. Very few people can do a retelling of this story and get it right. Unfortunately Gregory Maguire is not one of them.

After Alice is a poor attempt at retelling Carroll’s classic. Maguire tells the story of Ada, Alice’s neighbor and sometimes friend and her accidental trip down the rabbit hole. It started off strong, catching my attention with the author’s attention detail, BUT it plateaued near the middle and never regained momentum. Ada is a very dull character with thoughts too big for her age. (What child at ten reads Dante’s Inferno?!) And DO NOT get me started on his portrayal of Wonderland! I was severely disappointed in the lack of imagination breathing fresh life into these characters. They were flat, not at all “mad” and were missing the important element of all Wonderland creatures…peculiarity.

So I really liked the author’s version of Wizard of Oz, Wicked, so I was REALLY excited to pick up this book. BUT it read like a poor attempt at fan-fiction. And to steal from Alice “he writes as though he has a thesaurus on his desk.” EVERY SINGLE WORD seemed to be larger than the last. Don’t get me wrong, I like a smartly written book, but sometimes you can go too far. AND Mr. Gregory Maguire, you did.

For me, a lover of all things Wonderland, this book just didn’t make the cut. I tried my best to read it all, but wound up stopping at 80%. I just couldn’t suffer through more. If you’re a fan of the author, than you may like it. If like me you love Carroll, I suggest you steer clear!

About Gregory Maguire

Gregory Maguire is an American author, whose novels are revisionist retellings of children's stories (such as L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz into Wicked). He received his Ph.D. in English and American Literature from Tufts University, and his B.A. from the State University of New York at Albany. He was a professor and co-director at the Simmons College Center for the Study of Children's Literature from 1979-1985. In 1987 he co-founded Children's Literature New England (a non-profit educational charity).
Maguire has served as artist-in-residence at the Blue Mountain Center, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and the Hambidge Center. He lives in Concord, Massachusetts.

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