Reviewed by Dennis Menard
I did not much like After Alice, although I would have liked to. More than a decade ago an uncorrected proof of the not yet published Wicked fell into my hands which I read with relish and enjoyed to the utmost. So much so I resolved Gregory Maguire might well become one of my favored writers. Alas, with the exception of Lost, I have been left with rather so-so reactions to his later books.
Having never read Alice in Wonderland till I was well over forty, I was as the Red Queen, ‘not amused’ with the Reverend Dobson’s book. So when faced with Gregory Maguire’s spin on the story I had my doubts it would be “the” book to bring me back into the Gregory Maguire fan club.
Nevertheless I should say I half-liked this book. I did like and admire Gregory Maguire’s view of Alice from another perspective. Maquire seems to realize, as in the earliest Doctor Who series where the Earthling side-kick would go traipsing off with the Doctor with not a single backwards glance, or consideration of friends, family, or indeed one’s own native planet, that the interest lies not JUST in Alice and her gallivanting, but in those who have been left behind. And so in After Alice Maguire DID pay almost equal attention to Alice’s sister Lydia in Victorian Oxford. As for the exploits of Alice, her friend Ada, this book’s heroine, and all and sundry which took place once down the rabbit hole, it was my own personal O.C.D. which enabled me to finish the book. But this is the handicap of the original Alice, and not the fault of Gregory Maguire.
I felt sorry for poor Mr. Maguire to have hobbled himself severely having to emulate the written dialogue of the Reverend Dobson. The Reverend, I have always felt, was one of those insecure, humorless of people. Being so, he thus injected the most obnoxious form of “jolliness” into his characters’ endless questioning of one another’s platitudes. So my personal assessment of Lewis Carroll’s writing style can best be likened to the “wit” of Doctor Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham, but with none of the whimsy. But that is just me. So in closing I will say that although I still have high hopes Gregory Maguire will someday write another book as wonderful as Wicked, this was, in my humble opinion, not yet the one.
Dennis Menard is an artist. You can find his work at dennismenard.nl.
An ebook of After Alice can be found here.