After Alice by Gregory Maguire
Adult ∴ Historical Fiction ∴ Reimagining > Alice in Wonderland
Published October 27th 2015 by Headline (first published October 1st 2015)
Paperback ∴ 256 pages
AFTER ALICE, Gregory Maguire’s ninth novel for adults, returns to the mid-19th century summer day on which Alice disappeared into Wonderland, tracing what happened to her sister left behind on an Oxford riverbank, and also what happened when Alice’s friend Ada follows her down the rabbit hole.
So, to preface this, I’ve only read one other book by Maguire, Wicked. So, I’m somewhat familiar with his writing, in that it’s dense and wordy. After Alice was definitely an easier read than Wicked because there’s only so much new story to tell and it’s unnecessary for him to over explain the setting.
Now, I looked at Goodreads and noticed it’s rated with 2.77 stars, and I’m confused as to why. I found this so inventive and interesting compared to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass because it runs on the assumption that Alice had actually left Oxford and found somewhere new, rather than dreaming. Her family and friends spend the whole novel looking for her, but Ada is the only one looking in the right place.
The novel switches between (mainly) Ada, a friend mentioned in Carroll’s work, and Alice’s sister, Lydia. Ada has some physical deformities that are looked down upon by most others in her society. From what I gathered, she’s got severe scoliosis, or something like that, because she has to wear a metal corset to keep her posture as straight as possible. Alice seems to be the only one who does not look at her like she is her disability.
Lydia, on the other hand, knows Alice to disappear frequently, and thinks she’ll turn up sooner or later. Lydia tries to hide it, but is dealing with the death of her mother and the now absence of her father, and Alice’s floaty personality. She’s an average 15 year old girl for the time.
I think the reason this book was not received well is because readers wanted something like Wicked, or something like Alice in Wonderland, and it’s neither. Maguire perfectly mixed Victorian England with a beloved work to make something different. There are wonderful nods to the original work, but there are characters we learn more about and ones that aren’t mentioned until the end. I also think there’s some sort of commentary being made here, but I don’t feel like figuring it out.
Overall, I really enjoyed this and gave it 5 stars. I believe this is a super creative book and that it should be read with nothing else in mind. Take it for what it is and try not to compare it to other things.