It is hard to believe, but 150 years have passed since Lewis Carroll first introduced the world to Alice and the delightfully bizarre Wonderland.
What better way to celebrate such an occasion than with a trip – or should we say ‘fall’ – down the rabbit hole again. This time however, it is not Alice that we follow, but her friend Ada, who is momentarily mentioned in the original story, and now finds herself, most frustratingly, just one step behind Alice.
This is a hugely exciting event for Alice fans: the opportunity to return to Wonderland (thank you Mr Maguire for coming up with a much more original title than this) is enough to make you weep for jabberwocky joy. That is until the reading begins.
To revisit Wonderland is to revisit Carroll’s poetically perfect style of writing, and indeed Gregory Maguire does emulate this to a certain extent, but it comes at a price, as he waffles on a touch too long.
In an attempt to explore the impact that Alice’s disappearance has on those around her, there is the inclusion of her sister Lydia, whose voice we hear in every other chapter. While this is a valid inclusion, it does kind of spoil the fun. Let’s face it, we want more Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, Cheshire Cat and Playing Card people, not Victorian society ramblings and etiquette.
That being said, Maguire does manage to recreate the Lewis Carroll magic at times. Ada encounters some old favourites as well as some new but equally as eccentric characters, she is posed with riddles and conundrums that could only be found in Wonderland.
The humour and irony is perfectly placed, and Humpty Dumpty’s concern over becoming a devilled egg is worth a mention, as are Ada’s thoughts about marmalade as she tumbles down the rabbit hole.
While it is by no means perfect, After Alice is an enjoyable read that expands on the pre-existing universe well. It’s just not quite the same.