What it’s about: Alice wasn’t the only one who fell down the rabbit hole; her friend Ada, passingly mentioned in the original Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, followed her down and had her own set of adventures, while on that same day, Charles Darwin visited Alice’s father in the above-ground world.
Why I liked it: This book was slow to get started for me, but once it got going, I enjoyed it. Ada turns out to be a very interesting character, a little more grounded than Alice, who has to overcome the effects of having a disability and being a neglected child while trying to catch up with her friend Alice in Wonderland. She encounters some of the same characters as Alice did, as well as some new ones. I also enjoyed the scenes set in the “real world,” focusing on Alice’s older sister Lydia, who is half-heartedly looking for the missing girls while Charles Darwin, a handsome young American, and the American’s ward Siam (a former slave boy) visit with her father. Siam also finds his way into Wonderland, through the famous looking-glass, and meets up with Ada there. This is clearly a book for grown-ups who also loved Alice’s adventures (there is some disturbing content regarding Siam), and it’s a terrific tribute to Oxford, Victoriana, and the power of storytelling. I’m not entirely reconciled with how Maguire chose to end the book, with what I suppose is intended to be an explanation of what really happened to Alice on that day (it wasn’t just a dream, I guess). But for the most part, I enjoyed this retelling.
You might like it if: you enjoy retellings of old stories, the kind Maguire specializes in, or you’re a fan of Victorian novels.