After Alice by Gregory Maguire is about Alice’s friend Ada. Ada isn’t a dreamer like Alice and she doesn’t have much of an imagination. One day Ada is sent out to deliver a parcel to Alice’s family, but on the way there she decides to look for Alice. Alice is nowhere to be seen of course. She fell down the rabbit hole to begin her adventure. Ada, while trying to escape reality, finds her way to Wonderland and follows after Alice.
Gregory Maguire might be a familiar name since he wrote Wicked and the rest of the books in that series (which I am still unsure if I will continue). I really enjoyed Wicked. I thought it was a creative backstory to a classic. Maguire created an intricate world with social issues and politics on the basis of Oz. So when I heard about After Alice I had high hopes for the same dash of creativity on an old favorite. However, I was very disappointed. I know many other readers have complained about Maguire’s thesaurus worship and wordiness. Though I didn’t notice this much in Wicked I agree that his writing style annoyed me in this novel.
After Alice is just boring. It takes so long for Ada to get to Wonderland and the story leading up to her arrival is not creative nor interesting. Wonderland is the fun part of the original story and Maguire takes his time getting Ada there. At one point he spends pages and pages talking about Alice’s sister’s thoughts as she dozes off. I listened to the audio book and I actually dozed off during this part! Maguire spends whole chapters on Alice’s sister in the real world. Each time I came to those chapters I was reminded just how much I didn’t care about her sister or reality. There are some moments that feel similar to original though. I became nostalgic when some of the Wonderlanders come into the picture and argued back and forth, but none of them felt as lively as characters like the Mad Hatter or the Caterpillar. Perhaps it is unfair to compare iconic characters to Maguire’s, but when working with such an old and beloved classic it is difficult not to do so.
Our main character, Ada, is not interesting either. In the beginning I felt that she might have potential. Since she is touted as not being an imaginative child I thought that she could give a different view to Wonderland. Maybe she would focus more on rationalizing the madness there? Though there are some instances of this (she tries to think about how the rabbit hole works for example) she never feels that different from Alice or really any young girl. She is a faceless vehicle for exploring Wonderland.
Trailing after Alice isn’t actually that interesting to read about when it comes down to it. I found myself continually asking what is the point of this book? It brings nothing new to the table and it doesn’t do anything better than the original.