Book Review: After Alice By Gregory Maguire


From the guy that brought us Wicked comes a new spin on another classic. Gregory Maguire takes us down the rabbit hole after Alice.

It’s the story of what happened after Alice disappeared. When she first went to Wonderland, she left behind her in Oxford her sister Lydia and her friend Ada. Ada, too, finds herself in Wonderland, meeting many of your favourite characters: the Hatter, the Walrus and the Carpenter, the Chesire Cat, as she looks for Alice. Meanwhile, Lydia looks for both Alice and Ada in 1860s Oxford, where her father is entertaining none other than Charles Darwin.

Maguire perfectly captures the Lewis Carroll feeling. The characters are as quirky and nonsensical as the originals. What’s more, his playful use of language shows an appreciation for English that we see too rarely. Like Carroll did before, Maguire twists common phrases, poems, and puns to shape the whimsy and the madness of Wonderland.

Although strictly speaking, this is the tale of Ada’s search for Alice, and Lydia’s search for Alice and Ada (and later, Siam, escaped slave boy who is the ward of Darwin’s friend), it is, like the originals, a tale of the search for identity. In a world ever curiouser and curiouser, where things are never as they seem, it can be hard to know who we are, especially in that twilight world of adolescence, where childhood has ended and adulthood has not yet started. Further, it’s set in a time where religion and science were blurring together, and society itself wasn’t sure who it was. There are lots of monsters in the world that need slaying, and there’s never a Vorpal Sword around when you need it, but imagination is tool and weapon both.

We grow. We change. Things change around us. We don’t always have control over, well, anything, but learning to think for ourselves, and learning it is okay to let ourselves imagine, are sometimes all we need to do to fight the Jabberwock.