After Alice

After Alice by Gregory Maguire

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Maguire, author of Wicked and a few other great books that re-tell beloved stories from different points of view, addresses Alice In Wonderland through giving a story to the people Alice leaves behind when she journeys behind the looking glass. Many of the characters, including the protagonist Ada, are original, though they also meet many of Carroll’s strange creations. Ada is a friend and neighbor of Alice’s who follows her into Wonderland. The story mostly alternates between Ada and Lydia, Alice’s older sister who is looking for her. Lydia and Ada’s governess, Miss Armstrong, exchange barbs and witticisms as they look for the girls and vie for the attention of the visiting American Mr. Winter. Maguire also gives a backstory to Alice’s family: they are mourning her mother, and on the afternoon that Alice goes missing, her father is entertaining Charles Darwin, an old friend making a condolence visit. Ada and her back brace give Maguire occasion to address issues of disability, while Siam, a young former slave in the care of Mr. Winter, allows him to discuss abolition and the American civil war. The wry narrator puts the original Alice in her context, Victorian-era Oxford, and in a few passages that read like a remarkably witty textbook Maguire makes explicit the conflict about sex roles, evolution, empire, race, and class that Carroll was responding to in his  trippy, whimsical way.

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