ABCs of ARCs

After Alice

Gregory Maguire

Posted: March 8, 2016

The A to Z of You and Me

You may be wondering why I wrote why above: simply put there was little point to this book. Now, I understand that books aren’t meant to have a point, they are books after all, just stories to entertain us, maybe teach us something, open us up to new ideas and places, but this book did nothing of the sort.

I apologize to those who are Gregory Maguire fans (although based on a skim through Goodreads, I am not alone in my opinion of this book), but this was not my cup of tea. For those who don’t know, Gregory Maguire is the author of Wicked, the book turned Broadway musical. He is a well-educated man with an affection for fairy tales and fables which he often retells in his writings, giving readers another perspective of what is happening while the original takes place. This was my first taste of him, and I have to say it’s spoiled my view.

The basic premise of the book is a retelling of Alice in Wonderland/Alice through the Looking Glass, following instead of Alice, Ada, Alice’s woefully ill friend who wears a back brace and is followed like a duckling by her governess. That is until one afternoon when Ada runs off and tumbles down a hole straight into wonderland. Smothered between clips of Ada’s adventure, we given insight to Victorian life in England including ideas of slavery and Darwinism as Lydia (Alice’s sister) and the governess search for the missing children.

There is sadly nothing new here. Ada’s adventure in wonderland is more or less just another day in the park—the strangeness she encounters is logically explained away by the ten year old, perhaps the only contrast to Alice’s own exploration. Otherwise, all the usual suspects are there—the Cheshire cat, the caterpillar, the red queen. Interactions are different, of course, but it’s a familiar story, even for someone like myself who has never actually read the original tale (I know, I know).

And in between the stale tale of Ada, there is what I hoped to be a more intriguing tale of Lydia who has just lost her mother and is trying to find her place within the structure of society. Yet it falls flat. Coupled with the odd commentary by the narrator on the actual society of the time (while it was sometimes interesting, it dragged the reader away from the story sticking their faces into the freezer of reality), it feels like an odd juxtaposition with Ada and Alice.

Honestly, a tragedy of a book. I had hoped for something, well, new, something to add to the story of Alice. I wanted talking hats and strange flowers and just more creativity. There was far too much logic and it felt as though it was trying too hard. I would like to try and say something good about it—once and while passages were well thought out—but it just leaves me with a frown. Here’s to hoping the next book will be a bit better. Sorry Wicked fans, but this isn’t for me.