Review: After Alice by Gregory Maguire

Monday, 28 December 2015

After Alice by Gregory Maguire
Released: 2nd November 2015
Published by: HarperCollins
Genre: Classic Retelling
Source: Publisher
Pages: 288
My Rating: 2 of 5 stars
Down the rabbit hole, where adventures await. From multimillion-copy bestselling author of WICKED Gregory Maguire comes a magical new twist on ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND, published to coincide with the 150th anniversary of Lewis 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 new 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 herself. 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.

The White Rabbit, the Cheshire Cat, the blood-thirsty Queen of Hearts-droll and imperious as always-interrupt their mad tea party to suggest a conundrum: If Eurydice can ever be returned to the arms of Orpheus, or if Lazarus can be raised from the tomb, perhaps Alice can be returned to life. Either way, everything that happens next is after Alice.
Thank you to HarperCollins Australia  for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

After Alice is a book that I did want to enjoy, and the premise sounded promising - but unfortunately for me it didn't quite deliver. While I as expected an equally whimsical and enthralling read to the original, but with a new twist, this one ended up not being quite as gripping as I had hoped. That being said, there were a few redeeming qualities of this book, despite its downfalls in places. 

After Alice reads like a classic novel in terms of the writing style which is quite formal and filled with jargon. While admittedly some of it did go over my head with some obscure references and the way things were phrased, I can see how some readers might appreciate that Victorian charm. What this novel does differently from the original is bring in a more mature element, not so much in terms of content but the essence of the book itself. This doesn't possess quite the same whimsy and magic as Carrol's story, but then again that isn't what After Alice is trying to exactly imitate. Instead, the glimpses into Victorian life are intertwined with Ada's experiences in Wonderland, starkly juxtaposing reality and fantasy. This isn't a bad thing in itself, but I just found that it brought the pacing to a snail's pace unfortunately. There wasn't anything that really grabbed me in the beginning, and the whole story being written in a circuitous style made the plot drag on more than necessary in my opinion. 

That being said, Lydia, Alice's older sister, was an interesting character. I only wish that we had seen more of her in depth - how the responsibilities of the time impacted her at the time, and how she had to act like an adult and still be treated like a child at the age of fifteen. The references to Charles Darwin in the Victorian sections of the novel were vague at best, and the realist element as a whole tended to feel quite disjointed. 

It was in Wonderland itself that the plot ironically, began to make more sense. Harping back to the classic in a slightly closer fashion, the author did do something to capture some of the 'fun' of the story back. Again, the writing style seemed to be trying a too hard to be so eloquent and frankly ambiguous however. The good thing about these sections of the novel featuring Alice was actually seeing how the two 'versions' of the classic (original and re-imagined) converge. 


After Alice held such promise for me, but I was on this occasion left wanting the wow factor which was lacking. Despite the fact that this wasn't to my liking, I'll still be curious to see what Gregory Maguire will write next, and I'm willing to give his books another chance.

On the other hand, what are some of the better classic retellings you've loved? I'm up for recommendations!


  1. Sorry it didn't wow you! It sounds interesting, though. I enjoyed his Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister. Maybe I should give this one a try.

    One of my favorite retellings is Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson! It's a unique spin on Peter Pan.

    1. Thanks for the tip Ally, hopefully I'll enjoy that one more! That is so good to hear about Tiger Lily since I own a to read it :)

  2. Yeah this doesn't really sound like my cup of tea. Gregory Maguire has ALL this hype (I mean, he wrote Wicked) but after reading Egg and Spoon I'm not really convinced :(

    1. Yes, Wicked definitely reached some high acclaim, so my expectations where high but unfortunately not quite met.

  3. Ah, I didn't realise this was written as a classic would be (I hate all those clunky formal words), so now I'm glad I didn't pick this up at the bookstore the other day!

    I'm sorry this one wasn't awesome, it sounds like it had some promising elements though :)

    1. It definitely wasn't all bad, just not for me on the whole. Thanks for stopping by Wattle :)

  4. I read Gregory Maguire's Wicked and felt a little disappointed with that, so I'm sad to hear you were disappointed with this one Gina. :( Hope your next book is better!

    1. Illuminae came soon after this which I had ALL THE STARS for, so that was a good thing!

  5. Oh dear, seems like a bit of a disappointment! I've been wanting to try out this author's works, but the reviews haven't been all that promising.

    Lovely review, dear <33

    1. It's unfortunate too since I felt it did have so much potential at the start. Thanks Mel :)


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