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DNF: Gregory Maguire – After Alice

January 10, 2016

Maguire, Gregory - After Alice - 400LibraryThing Early ReviewersDNF. After Alice by Gregory Maguire (2015)

Length: 288 pages
Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction

Started: 25 November 2015
Finished: Nope!

Where did it come from? LibraryThings Early Reviewer program.
Why do I have it? I have mixed luck with Gregory Maguire, but I’d re-read Alice in Wonderland fairly recently, so I thought it looked interesting.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 17 August 2015.

A little girl falls
down the rabbit hole, but she’s
ten minutes later.

Summary: This is the story of Ada, Alice’s sometimes friend, who sees Alice disappear down the rabbit hole, and follows her into Wonderland. Ada is not a child of much imagination, and her adventures are not quite the same as what Alice finds. Furthermore, the world she leaves behind on that idyllic Oxford day – Alice’s sister, Ada’s own nanny, her colicky infant brother, the strange Mr. Darwin that is visiting Alice’s father, etc. has its own turmoil.

Review: I struggled with this one a lot, and ultimately wound up not finishing it. I really wanted to like it, but I just couldn’t get into it. I have to be in a particular mood for Maguire’s writing, I think, and I just wasn’t – the prose felt overworked and intentionally Quirky(!) rather than natural and unique, and it didn’t flow for me at all. I also had a really hard time getting into the story – whether it’s the writing that kept me at arm’s length, or that the characterizations (particularly of Ada) didn’t feel fully realized, I can’t entirely say. I did enjoy picking up the connections to Alice in Wonderland, when they came past, but the balance of references to more straight-forward repetition felt off (For example, Ada’s encounter with the “Drink Me” vial felt only superficially different from Alice’s, and lasted way too long, in my opinion.) But on the whole I wasn’t invested in the story, didn’t care about the characters, and the off-beat-ness of Maguire’s prose combined with the bizarre nature of Wonderland (which should have been a natural fit, right?) just made the whole thing really challenging to read, easy to put down, and a struggle to pick back up. Even the appearance of Charles Darwin couldn’t keep me interested, so I decided after about 150 pages (the end of Part 1) that it was time to bow out. 2 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: I know other people get along with Maguire’s style a lot better than I do, so they will hopefully have better luck with this one than I did.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Lots of them over at the Book Blogs Search Engine.
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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.

Vocab: (see the whole list)

  • p. 4: “Gradually, as the sun coaxes the damp away, the coving spaces emerge.” – A concave surface forming a junction between a ceiling and a wall.
    .
  • p. 7: “Miss Armstrong took his vatic murmur as agreement that an outing for Ada would do the household good.” – Of or characteristic of a prophet; oracular.
    .
  • p. 17: “What glustery, ghastly improbabilities might open up beneath the roots of the Iffley yew, should the Boyces have to dig a grave in the family plot at the Church of Saint Mary for the burial of Infant Male!” – Typo? Or a purposeful typo to get the alliteration?
    .
  • p. 18: ““It’s the opodeldoc. For my rheumatism.” – A kind of plaster used for external injuries; camphorated soap or liniment.
    .
  • p. 53: “She rearranged herself in as relaxed an odalisque’s posture as she could, given she was outfitted with woody stems.” – A woman slave in a harem.
    .
  • p. 61: “Overhead, what Ada had thought were intertwining boughs turned out to be a pale green ceiling, done over in a plaster molding that emulated the fan-vaulting in Brasenose College Chapel. The effect was faintly pietistic.” – Stress on the emotional and personal aspects of religion.
    .
  • p. 67: “Lydia stood and folded her hands together so the full impact of her juliette sleeves might register.” – a long, tight sleeve with a puff at the top, inspired by fashions of the Italian Renaissance and named after Shakespeare’s tragic heroine
    .
  • p. 71: ““A sort of mousy, apprentice Erinys detached from her clot of spectres, I imagine.” – any of the Furies.
    .
  • p. 80: “For an instant she saw his hands were gammon-pink upon the palms.” – A cured or smoked ham.
    .
  • p. 91: “While Lydia didn’t think she was insensitive to the plight of others – the color of his skin, his curious rubicund health! – she was careful of her own profile in the community.” – Inclined to a healthy rosiness; ruddy.
    .
  • p. 98: ““All the while she was here, she was as solid a little janissary as you’d care to see.” – A member of a group of elite, highly loyal supporters.
    .
  • p. 146: ““You need a nostrum for your wild panics, my girl.”” – A favorite but usually ineffective remedy for problems or evils.
    .

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 10, 2016 7:50 pm

    My book club was supposed to read this for January. A few people started it early and said they couldn’t get into it so we decided to skip it. It sounds like we made the right decision.

  2. January 12, 2016 9:40 pm

    Ah, too bad. I’ve been eyeballing this one but have had the same experience as you with GM’s works — sometimes they’re hard to get into. Probably gonna pass on this one, too.

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