Maguire has made a name for himself by re-imagining well-known fairy tales and children’s’ stories from the point-of-view of another character. From “Snow White” to “A Christmas Carol”, Maguire uses back story and inventiveness to create an alternate reality. Wicked, which told the story of the Wicked Witch of the West, became a blockbuster Broadway musical. It seems we have a curiosity for how they got that way.
In After Alice, Maguire nearly returns to form. Instead of showing us another side of Alice, or giving us insight into the Red Queen’s heart, he chooses to follow Ada. Mentioned in passing in the original tale, Ada is Alice’s friend. Visiting and playing with her on that warm summer day, she too falls into the rabbit hole. She is looking for Alice in this bizarre and illogical land, and always seems to be a few steps behind.
The entire novel is an exercise in what happened just a few minutes after Alice left. It’s strange but it works for the most part.
Ada hadn’t gone much farther along the strand when she came upon a door standing open upon a wooden sill. The door was closed cleanly in its framing, but its jamb was unattached to any wall. Possibly a door that had been built in a shop and abandoned upright on a beach. When is a door not a door?
Ada found it was as handsome and finished on the far side as on the near. Indeed, it was hard to tell if there was an inside or an outside to the thing. She tried the handle, but the door was locked. Then she looked more closely at the knob. Inscribed in tiny letters across the brass bulb, words so small she could just read them:
Nothing would do, then, but to check the knob on the far side of the door. It said:
Ada is clever in her own atypical way as she navigates the weird underworld. And Maguire mimics Carroll’s effortless, point-of-fact style without becoming annoying. In a way, this delivery (and Carroll’s before him) makes the story all the more absurd in its nonchalant-ness.
This is an enjoyable visit to Wonderland and Alice’s adventures in it.
Thank you to William Morrow for the review copy.
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: William Morrow (October 27, 2015)
Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 11.1 x 1.1 inches