Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Review: After Alice

After Alice 
Rating: 3/5 
Buy or Borrow: Borrow
Source: Copy courtesy of BookBridgr! 

When Alice fell down the rabbit-hole, she found Wonderland as rife with inconsistent rules and abrasive egos as the world she left behind. But how did Victorian Oxford react to Alice's disappearance? Gregory Maguire turns his 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 mentioned briefly in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, sets out to visit Alice but, arriving a moment too late, 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 bring her safely home from this surreal world below the world. The White Rabbit, the Cheshire Cat and the bloodthirsty Queen of Hearts 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.

I completely and utterly loved Wicked so when I spotted this on BookBridgr, I HAD to request it! Aside from the stunning's a brand new Gregory Maguire book and I had a burning need. I love his writing style, the writing is just so beautiful, "Spires and domes like so much barnacled spindrift poke through first", I'm just so in love with the writing style. Yes, it's hard to read sometimes because it's so wordy, so it's hard to get in to. There are words mentioned that I haven't come across before and have no idea what they mean so I have to look them up. But despite that, the writing is brilliant. I love it. In the Victorian setting of the book, it's perfect. It fits so perfectly with the setting pulling you in to the book and the story, but it can take a few pages to get used to. 

There are a lot of Alice in Wonderland re-tellings out there, and this one is interesting don't get me wrong. We follow Ada, a character briefly mentioned in the original books, as she follows Alice down the rabbit hole and is trying to locate her in Wonderland. She meets many of the same characters as Alice so we see a lot of familiar faces, Queen of Hearts, Chesire Cat etc, which was fun. I actually liked Ada. She was interesting and had an entertaining narrative. She's been forced in to wearing this metal brace thing, and with the arrival of a new baby in the family she's pushed aside. As you read the book you watch Ada move further and further away from her smothering family life and she was a character you could root for. 

In alternating chapters we also follow Alice's sister Lydia who was supposed to be looking after her sister but has managed to lose her. Alice is missing, merrily wandering through Wonderland, and Lydia is socialising with Darwin...yep. That Darwin. An American gentleman and the boy he freed from slavery, Siam. She's sent out to find her sister with the help of Mr. Winters, Siam and Ada's governess who is also searching for Ada herself, and I wasn't sure I liked Lydia all that much. She didn't seemed bothered that her sister was missing, she acted like she was older than she was, but I came to like her quite a lot and towards the end you could see she cared for her sister. The more I read the more of her character I understood. She's just lost her mother and she's trying to deal with that, she acts like she's older than she is because she's having to grow up faster. She's trying to make sense of what happened, to understand it all and she has to make all of these decisions that she's not ready to make and she no longer has a mother to turn to for help and advice. 

Ada's POV was interesting and full of adventure. Lydia's not so much. There was a kind of adventure to it, but not as fantastical as Ada's. There's none of the action, and it's more character based. This book isn't a light read, there's a lot of historical study going on here, the author examines family and society at the time of the book, it's quite sombre and not by any means an easy read. The book wasn't really what I was expecting. I love Wicked. But this isn't in the same ballpark. I feel like there's a lot of bits and pieces taken from the original and turned around to suit this book and it felt like I'd read some of it before. There was none of the originality that I was expecting and I found my attention wandering once or twice. 

I'm conflicted about After Alice. I loved Maguire's writing style and his beautiful imagery, I enjoyed the characters, but the actual Wonderland aspects fell a bit short for me. I was more interested in the scenes in the real world, and seeing what life was like for the characters there. Which rather defeats the point of an Alice in Wonderland retelling doesn't it? I just found the characters and their Victorian struggles so interesting to read about and had little to no interest in the Wonderland scenes as it all felt a bit  deja vu. 

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