After Alice – Gregory Maguire

This book may have come out at the end of last year but if you haven’t noticed I’ve been going a bit mad for Alice in Wonderland at the moment so I think it’s only fitting that I review it alongside some of its counterparts.

Aptly named this book follows Ada, Alice’s friend who tumbles down the rabbit hole after going to her house to deliver a jar of marmalade. Ada’s journey follows nearly the same path as Alice’s as she searches to be reunited with her only friend. Plagued by bad posture resulting in an odd walk Ada doesn’t have much self-confidence, before entering Wonderland she has a brace secured to her back and is constantly looked at as a burden. As the novel progresses we learn more of her past as she travels through Wonderland through her own flashbacks and through Alice’s sister Lydia’s narrative, a narrative we have been previously restricted from. This new narrative sheds light on what was happening to the household after Alice disappears.

Not only are we privy to Lydia’s attempts to find Alice and Ada with Ada’s governess Miss Armstrong but we see the world through Siam’s eyes. A young African American who has just been freed from slavery by Mr Winter. Apart from seeing how he views the world around him and later Wonderland I am unsure what his viewpoint brought to the piece. With Lydia’s we see how a young woman coming of age searches for her sister while pushing the boundaries of what is expected of her. I don’t know how the view of the upper world has any bearing as to what Ada experiences in Wonderland but it does explain how Siam later ends up in Wonderland (that’s the only spoiler if you haven’t read it I swear). The introduction of certain characters (you’ll know exactly who I mean when you get to their introduction) led to me wondering why they were included. Quite possibly it could be as a small contradiction to how Wonderland and its beings came to life or, possibly they have been included to set the piece in a particular time period. Personally they added nothing to the novel for me; they were a distraction from what I wanted to be reading.

Ada’s journey seems to take a back burner as these narratives come forward, the journey that I would have thought that the novel would focus on. The famous characters from the original novel all come back reprising their roles in the same fashion as they did in Carroll’s. Of course not a lot could have been done with them as we are looking at events just after Alice; they can’t have developed in matter of minutes.

I finished the novel quickly and it was a good read. The changing narratives gave me more insight into the world outside Wonderland but if I’m honest, I was expecting to spend the whole novel engrossed in this strange and wacky world. In comparison to “Alice” and “Red Queen” I much preferred Christina Henry’s re-imagining. The darker tones appealed to me more than the repeated searches for Ada and Alice. I would still recommend the book to anyone looking to read further into Wonderland’s tale. It offers insight into the time period it is situated in and provides more background to Alice’s mental state as well the troubles that young girls such as Alice and Ada face in a male dominated world.


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