Wednesday, March 2, 2016

After Alice by Gregory Maguire - Book Review (Spoiler Free)

Hi guys! Today I'll be reviewing my favorite book from last month, After Alice by Gregory Maguire. I thought I would write a single, in-depth but non-spoilerly review of this book because it's one I truly believe deserves a little more attention.


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If you've looked this book up on Goodreads, you might have noticed that this book seems to be getting lots of negative reviews. Well, this is something I want to address in today's post. See, although I think the low ratings are absolutely not justified, I do understand why people in general have given it low ratings. In this review I'll also go through all the reasons why I actually personally really loved After Alice.  


The Plot


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Meant as a tribute to the original Alice in Wonderland, After Alice follows the adventures of Alice's friend, Ada, as she stumbles through the rabbit hole after Alice. What ensues is a dreamlike trip through the whimsical world of Wonderland, unlike anything Victorian England born Ada could ever imagine. 


The Reasons Why I Loved After Alice 


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The prose: The writing was absolutely beautiful. Almost poetic. The author manages to weave his words in such a way that a few chapters into this book, it becomes very easy for the reader to imagine the dreamlike world of Wonderland. 

The characters: All the characters in this book had unique and well fleshed out personalities. Ada is in no way just another version of Alice. She's a child, yes, but at the same time, there's a maturity to her. She's pretty likable and that, too, despite not being your regular YA lead. She has a physical deformity but surprisingly, out of all the people in the story, she seems to be the least affected by it. Another character we spend a lot of time with is Lydia, Alice's older sister. When we first meet her, she seems a little shallow and not at all concerned by the disappearance of her sister. As we spend more time with her though, the complexity of her personality gradually shines through and we can't help but take a genuine interest in her own story line.   

The world-building: The setting was highly descriptive and very beautifully conceived. Maguire's Wonderland was amazingly dreamlike and highly reminiscent of Lewis Carroll's Wonderland while succeeding at the same time to be a whole new world of its own right. Maguire's Wonderland is both whimsical and highly imaginative and works both as a fan's dream come true and as a perfect homage to the original Wonderland. Part of the story is also set in Victorian England, which keeps the story close enough to the original work in terms of dialogue style and setting.

The atmosphere: Standing out as one of its best elements for me, the atmosphere of this book was also superbly rendered. You can simply feel you're in Wonderland. Honestly, there were times when the book even felt like a dream in that it didn't always made much sense but remained however beautiful throughout. 

It's a beautiful tribute to Alice in Wonderland: I love both Alice in Wonderland and Wicked, also by the author, and After Alice is the perfect book for any fan of both works. The book cover describes After Alice best, "A Christmas gift to the dear reader of Wicked in memory of Alice in Wonderland."

The Reasons Why It's Been Having Low Ratings Despite Being An Excellent Book


Front and back cover artwork. Image found here.

Misleading marketing: With the number of YA fairy tale and classic retellings which have been popping up on the literary scene lately, it's no surprise that After Alice got the 'fairy tale retelling' treatment marketing-wise. The promotion around this book wants you believe that you're about to read another retelling in the likes of Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles or Brianna Shum's Peter Pan retelling Never, Never. After Alice is however more a tribute to Alice than an actual retelling, something most people didn't realize when they went into this book, hence the general disappointment with it.


It's been marketed to the wrong audience: After Alice has been marketed primarily to readers who tend to favor YA literature. Now, someone who reads predominantly YA, or any genre for that matter, learns over time to expect to find a specific language style and certain tropes in their books. That's where After Alice failed to impress because despite having a child as its main character, the book is neither written nor constructed like a YA novel. It's a brilliant novel, just not the kind a reader of YA would necessarily want to pick up.

The prose: The author writes with a style most young readers would describe as 'complex'. In fact, the language is similar to what we usually find in Gregory Maguire's adult books. Is the prose good though? Yes, absolutely. It's just not one young readers are necessarily used to.

The whimsical aspect of the book: Some readers have complained about some dialogues or scenes not making much sense. Here's a small fact: Wonderland is not actually supposed to make much sense. The same holds true for Lewis Carroll's original work as well and is in fact one of the things that makes Wonderland such a dreamlike place. We get so many fantasy novels with carefully laid out magical worlds that we've gotten used to fictional places we can easily envision and understand. It's no wonder then that some people were taken a little off-guard by the setting of After Alice. This takes nothing from the beauty of Maguire's story though.

It's a tribute, not a rip-off: Some people have complained about After Alice not even featuring Alice as a main character or being little more than a rip-off of the original work. After Alice is a tribute, not a retelling of Alice in Wonderland. It's supposed to be a little similar to the original book. And since it's not, in fact, a direct retelling, it's a little normal that the main character is one of Maguire's own making. 

Final Word


Artwork inspired from After Alice, featuring the book's actual characters, found here.

I ended up giving After Alice 5 stars and I absolutely plan to re-read it again. If you love Alice in Wonderland, if maybe you also even love Wicked, then do yourself a favor and pick up this book. The way I see it, After Alice is, simply put, a treat for fans of both works ^^

I hope you enjoyed this review! What was your favorite book of last month? Let me know in the comments :)


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5 comments:

  1. I am glad to see that you were able to love this one and it's good to finally hear a differing opinion. It's just a shame it is being marketed to the wrong audience and in the wrong way, because then maybe more people would enjoy this one!

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    1. Yeah! I guess I'll keep recommending it for a while on the blog XD.

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  2. great review... I'll make sure that i read that one... :) :) :)

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