After Alice by Gregory Maguire

Posted On 31 October 2015

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Just finished reading After Alice and have mixed feelings about it.  I didn’t love it but I didn’t hate it either – I just feel a little ambivalent.

After Alice is quite literally a story that takes place after Alice has tumbled down the rabbit hole.  It doesn’t really involve Alice much at all although there is plenty of mention of her but focuses instead on her friend Ada who also manages to find herself tumbling down the same rabbit hole and following in Alice’s footsteps.  At the same time we get to read the story of what is unfolding at Alice’s home where her father is embroiled in a visit by a very eminent person of the era, the staff are wrapped up in trying to make lunch preparations and are all flustered and Alice’s sister is torn between trying to charm one of the visitors and being hounded to try and locate her missing sister.

Put bluntly, After Alice is a sequel and being a bit slow on the uptake I hadn’t really considered that.  To be honest I’m not always overly fond of authors writing sequels to another person’s works but I do think I give this one a fair trial and in fairness I did enjoy elements of the story.

What I particularly liked about the book was the writing style.  For me this author’s style of writing seems to lend itself perfectly to a Victorian novel.  His style comes across old fashioned and whimsical, if a little wordy, and I think he did a great job of setting out the place and the people. I think Maguie also manages to take a look at some of the class issues of the era – the snobbery and the class system being examples.  This was an interesting era and one just poised on the brink of change.  I also enjoyed revisiting some of the characters from the original story and getting involved once again in their silliness.

In terms of the characters – to be honest I really couldn’t find myself becoming attached to any – except Ada.  Lydia, I tried to like.  She’s just lost her mother and is struggling with the loss not only of one of her parents but also with the instantaneous loss of her own childhood as she is now expected to bear more responsibility.  However, she was more likely to invoke irritation than sympathy to be honest.  Ada on the other hand.  She has her own burdens to bear.  Born with a curvature of the spine she has always worn an uncomfortable iron corset.  Most of polite society find her imperfections intolerable and on top of that the recent addition to her family of a baby boy has definitely pushed her into the margins of the household.  I did like Ada and her no nonsense way of searching for Alice who she in fact realises is actually in need of rescue.

In terms of criticisms.  I thought that the plot lacked focus.  Yes, Ada is searching for Alice.  But it felt a little like a pale imitation of Alice’s adventures.  Ada is always on the outside looking in and the chapters in which we meet old favourites just feel a bit like regurgitations of what has already come before.  On top of that, I didn’t really enjoy the alternating chapters that we spent in the ‘real’ world.  In fact, I’m not really sure what benefit these extra chapters brought to the story to be honest other than to use the opportunity to turn this into a social commentary on the period and the people. I guess the alternating chapters served as a way to compare the worlds but personally I would have preferred the adventure to stay a little more in Wonderland.  I also thought the ending felt very rushed and to be honest a little unsatisfactory – although it could be that the author is planning a follow up.

So, mixed feelings.  I did like the author’s style.  I thought he came up with some quite thought provoking ideas but somehow it lacked that certain something, difficult to put my finger on really, but that little extra that just makes a book click for you.  I certainly wouldn’t dissuade others from reading but by the same token I wouldn’t say it’s a must read.

I received a copy courtesy of the publishers.  The above is my own opinion.

11 Responses to “After Alice by Gregory Maguire”

  1. Tammy

    Your reaction was very similar to mine. Although I actually liked the real world parts better than the Wonderland parts for some reason. It makes me want to go back and reread Wicked to see if I still love it as much the second time.

    • @lynnsbooks

      I haven’t read Wicked but I do have a copy. His writing style definitely makes me want to read that one now. I definitely didn’t dislike this or struggle to read it – I just didn’t love it either.
      Lynn 😀

  2. jenclair

    Hmmm. I think I still want to read it, but I certainly get your point! Especially writing a sequel to such a well-known and familiar story….

    • @lynnsbooks

      It’s a tough act to follow for sure. I really do like the author’s style of writing and would definitely be interested in your thoughts.
      Lynn 😀

  3. Steph

    I haven’t picked this up yet. I love Gregory Maguire and Alice but this seems too far away from the tale of Alice for my preferences. I’m just torn.

    • @lynnsbooks

      Well, maybe you should give it a go. We’re all different and at the end of the day I didn’t hate this book and certainly didn’t find it hard to read. In fact I really enjoyed the style of writing although I don’t think it is to everyone’s taste. I think I wanted maybe a little bit more but then that’s more to do with my expectations that anything else.
      Lynn 😀

  4. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    I am torn on authors writing sequels to other works as well, especially when it comes to classics. I guess it depends on whether or not one can justify a book really “needs” a sequel, and unfortunately for me Alice in Wonderland has always fallen into the “no” category for me. I prefer just to remember the whimsy and leave it at that 🙂

  5. jessicabookworm

    I haven’t heard of this however I have read Maguire’s novel Wicked, a prequel to The Wizard if Oz, which of course has been turned into the popular musical. I like the idea of this new novel but I am in two minds about it after reading your thoughts.

    • @lynnsbooks

      Well, it’s a difficult one – but, one thing for sure, I really liked the writing which came across as quite classical almost. In that respect I think you’d enjoy it because you’re reading a lot from your classics list at the moment and the writing here is quite beautiful. I enjoyed Wonderland and revisiting the characters but wanted something different whereas Ada’s trips just felt a bit like a reflection of Alice, and I didn’t really love the alternate storyline – but, at least one other blogger preferred that element. So you could be quite enchanted with it. It certainly isn’t a bad book and it was very easy to read.
      Lynn 😀

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