Good gads she's posting today! I'm so, so sorry for my silence of late, friends. I've been a bit swamped with work, some professional development classes, my nephew's baseball season and a big announcement I'll have coming soon. I hope you're all having a great July so far and finding lots of wonderful things to read. Before I post my review today, I just wanted to share a couple links with you. First is the July Nerdy Special List. There's quite a few great books coming out in July; I had a hard time picking my title for this month, but I did finally narrow it down. There may or may not have been a coin flip involved. And secondly, I had my first review accepted by the Christian Science Monitor. That one is for Ben Winters' The Underground Airlines. You can read it here. O.k. on to today's review...
First line: "Were there a god in charge of story--I mean one cut to Old Testament specifics, some hybrid of Zeus and Father Christmas--such a creature, such a deity, might be looking down upon a day opening in Oxford, England, a bit past the half-way mark of the nineteenth century."
Those familiar with Gregory Maguire's (The Wicked Years series) work will likely not be surprised to hear me say that his stunning gift with words and story-telling made After Alice a delightfully charming, incredibly creative, deeply insightful fantasy that should stand the test of time, just as its inspiration, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, has.
After Alice is the story of Alice's friend Ada who is headed to see Alice just moments after the spirited young girl falls down the rabbit hole. Ada accidents upon the same gateway to Wonderland and finds herself spiraling down as well. Ada's descent into the wacky world of the Mad Hatter, Cheshire Cat, White Knight (or Night) and Queen of Hearts frees her from the physical disabilities she endured at home, so she sets out on a magical adventure to find Alice.
Meanwhile, back among the boring realities of home, Alice's sister, Lydia, and Ada's governess, Miss Armstrong, are trying to find the missing girls.
Maguire's innate ability to build fantastic plots around the barely mentioned characters of epic fairy tales--plots that compliment and never contradict or alter the original stories--is awe inspiring. But he goes beyond that. In After Alice, the whimsical language echoes Louis Carroll's but still maintains a distinctness to Maguire's style. His playful approach to the world of words transfers to readers a youthful exuberance and giddiness while reading:
Beyond the door, the lawn was shorn and rolled to Pythagorean precision. The clouds were perfect, neither too many nor histrionic. As she watched hungrily, the cumuli began sliding down the side of the world and changing places with the lawn. This proved disconcerting, like a picture in a book turned upside down. Why, there was the Ace of Spaces digging a hole in the lawn-sky, and stuffing Rosa Rugosa root-first into the green-fringed heaven hovering over a blue eternal sky-sea. It was amusing to see the Ace of Spades sprinkle water upward.
Then while he's entertaining his reader with poetic imagery and playfulness, he sneaks in social issues--issues that seem to transcend time, like the glacial slowness of change:
"The law says one thing and custom another," replied Mr. Winter. "What the assemblies legislate and what happens on the back roads of small towns are not always in agreement. Put another way, history takes a long time to happen."
In this instance they're referencing the abolition of slavery in the United States during the Nineteenth Century, but that statement jumps off the page as glaringly true today for things like race, gender and sexual orientation equality.
And Maguire's insights aren't confined to social issues. He taps into human complexities as well:
As for dreams, they are powered by urgent desire, even if that desire is only to escape the quotidian. Ada, who lived with a sense of disappointment and failure, thanks to her misshapen form, suffered from a flat dream-life, one that seemed poorly differentiated from her waking hours. As a stolid child, her dreams were of static things, almost still-lifes: a lump of cheddar on a board, a goat roped to a tinker's cart, a curving road.
This enchanting, fun spin on the classic tale of Alice's wild adventures is as surprising as it is entertaining. There are captivating curiosities with every page turn. So settle yourself in for a fall down the rabbit hole into the marvelous world of Gregory Maguire's Wonderland.
After Alice is now available in trade paperback from William Morrow (ISBN: 9780060859749). You can still get a copy in hardcover (ISBN: 9780060548957) and there's an unabridged audiobook (ISBN: 9780062562272), narrated by Katherine Kellgren, from HarperAudio.
My review today is part of the TLC book tour for After Alice. Check the schedule to see how other bloggers are reacting to their tumble down the rabbit hole with Ada.