Friday, July 8, 2016

Book Review: After Alice by Gregory Maguire

Media Type: Print Book
Title: After Alice
Author: Gregory Maguire
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Pages: Hardcover; 273
Release Date: July 5, 2016
Source: TLC Book Tours
Genre: Retellings / Re-Imaginings

HDB Rating: 3 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who have a fondness for Alice and all things Wonderland related.

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | BookLikes
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 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 herse
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 Eurydice 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.”

Dear me. I am so conflicted! See, on the one hand Gregory Maguire is one of my all time favorite writers. His ability to spin in his own particular brand of whimsy into classic tales is unrivaled. I've loved every single one of his books that I've set my hands on. Which is why I had such high hopes for this particular story. Alice in Wonderland is an iconic piece of childhood. Everyone knows it in some capacity or another. For me, it was the book I most loved to have read to me before bed. I've read every iteration of it that I could get. Needless to say, I was thrilled to read this.

Now, I find myself finished and rather conflicted about After Alice. I'll start with the good. First off, Maguire does indeed pay homage to his source material. Readers can expect to see cameos from some of their favorite quirky characters, and Ada's interactions with them are just as delightful as her predecessors. Also, the whole feel of the original is still here. The erudite vocabulary, the nonsense that isn't quite nonsense, all of it is there in vivid color. The portions that take place in Wonderland are simply darling. Ada's stubborn ways, pitted against the inhabitants of this wonderful world, were just too much fun.

What brings this book down, in my opinion, is its use of dual points of view. Lydia, Alice's older sister, has her own experiences chronicled in alternating chapters. Which means, of course, that every other chapter is filled with her Lydia's own musings and personality. Lydia isn't easy to like. She is, in fact, rather insufferable. Having her chapters mixed in with Ada's own whimsical ones made this book more difficult to read than I expected. I almost wanted to skip every other chapter, just to get back to Wonderland. If this book had focused solely on Ada's chapters, you would see a much different review being written. That part, I loved.

So, final thoughts? This isn't Maguire's strongest book. While it definitely has a lot in it to love, I feel like long time readers of Maguire's works will probably fall into the same boat that I am in right now. Feeling torn between wanting to love this, and dreaming of what might have been. There is still much of the Maguire magic in this book! If you're a completionist, I'd still give this a spot on your TBR. 

FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.


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