After Alice by Gregory Maguire
Ada, Alice’s friend, escapes her governess and falls through a rabbit hole. At the same time Lydia, Alice’s sister, tries to spend time with Mr. Winter and learns something about herself as her father entertains Charles Darwin.
- References to other books
- Just didn’t hold my interest
- Reactions to Wonderland
- Charles Darwin
- References that take you out of the story
- Book blasphemy
This is by the same author as The Wicked Years series(Wicked) – love the play – and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I think I’ve only read a couple of pages of the Wicked series – the first couple of the second book – and I remember liking it. On a side note, I didn’t finish because I was on holiday and the copy at the place I was staying at was missing the next 100 pages so never got round to continuing it. I kind of had the opposite reaction to this book. I liked the first couple of sentences – which were a bit long – then it started to seem like a dedication to Oxford. Not say it wasn’t a nice description, I’ve never been but it sounds like a lovely place in the book, it was just a bit too much too soon. The main character – Ada – isn’t even introduced till the third chapter, though part of that is the weird chapter length – first is two pages and the second is a couple of sentences.
Speaking of Ada, she was just ok for me. She wasn’t particularly interesting and her reactions weren’t drastically different to Alice’s about Wonderland. Her experiences are similar enough to what happened in Alice’ Adventures in Wonderland – and possibly Through the Looking Glass, the two books kind of blend together in my mind – that I didn’t feel like I read anything new or got a different perspective. I got that more from another character who also ends up in Wonderland but not for very long.
TBH I found Lydia more interesting. I still didn’t like her much but I found her more compelling at times. She was well read and towed the line of trying to be unique and still keep to social conventions. She even reminded me more of Alice with how debated words and sayings. Her character did develop as she realised what she wanted and didn’t but I just couldn’t find it in myself to care that much.
I feel I should talk about Alice. She does actually make a brief appearance at the end but she feels like more of a character than Ada and Lydia. Everything revolves around, as shown by the title. Ada’s main goal is to try and find her and she constantly thinks about her and compares herself to Alice. Lydia isn’t much different. Her mind keeps going back to Alice and everyone around her keep reminding her that she should be keeping track of her. It actually made me want to reread Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to see how lives up to the attention shown here.
That is something else that I found strange about this book. It kept making me want to read other books. There are a lot of references to other books, mainly A Midsummer Night’s Dream – my favourite Shakespeare piece – and Dante’s Inferno. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the references but there is a lot… including literary criticism on Shakespeare. I actually had fun finding the similarities between those books and this one… there were more than I thought there would be.
As much as I liked them they also lead to my personal pet hate which this book kept repeating. The omniscient narrator kept breaking the fourth wall and making comments that bring you out of the story. One of these included talking about books that came out 100 years after the setting of the book like His Dark Materials. The narrator even talks about how tenses change. It’s just really annoying for me, I like to be completely immersed in a story, not reminded that I’m reading.
Another aspect that I wasn’t sure about was how it seems like the book wants to debate whether it is a dream or not but fails. A bit harsh, I know, but that’s what it feels like. It looks like there was some effort to make some of the character of Wonderland relate to the ones outside of it. Ada’s governess is the best example with the references to being late and running around everywhere, like the White Rabbit. It puts into question whether it is real or not – like with the Wizard of Oz film or even Midsummer Night’s Dream – but Wonderland is also made to be real with the Rabbit being out of Wonderland and the events of another character in ending up in Wonderland. It’s like it wants to question but doesn’t at the same time, it confuses my brain.
All in all I just wasn’t impressed with this book. The characters weren’t particularly interesting and neither is what happens in the book. There are some great references but just so many on them, even Darwin is in the book needlessly as an unseen character – I doubled checked this as I was editing and found he is seen and even speaks at the end- and it takes away from my immersion into the story. It just made me want to go read something else which wasn’t helped by finding out that Ada committed book blasphemy by burning books in a fireplace. This book is just really not for me and I can’t really recommend it to read.
After Alice by Gregory Maguire:-
The Wicked Years by Gregory Maguire:-