Alice by Christina Henry (2015)
Genres: Fantasy, Horror, Retelling
Reading Time: 28/10/16 – 31/10/16
In a warren of crumbling buildings and desperate people called the Old City, there stands a hospital with cinderblock walls which echo with the screams of the poor souls inside.In the hospital, there is a woman. Her hair, once blonde, hangs in tangles down her back. She doesn’t remember why she’s in such a terrible place-just a tea party long ago, and long ears, and blood…Then, one night, a fire at the hospital gives the woman a chance to escape, tumbling out of the hole that imprisoned her, leaving her free to uncover the truth about what happened to her all those years ago.Only something else has escaped with her. Something dark. Something powerful.And to find the truth, she will have to track this beast to the very heart of the Old City, where the rabbit waits for his Alice.
Christina Henry’s retelling of the popular tale Alice in Wonderland is definitely an adaptation to challenge the weirdness of the original story. This version is following Alice as she escapes from a mental asylum with Hatcher, her friend over the years of being trapped there. Together the two face a stranger underground network of big bosses and magical weirdness.
The characters we know and love are intertwined into this story in obvious and subtle ways. But don’t rely on an old favourite being such a good character in this adaptation, ignore what you know of Alice and let yourself fall down the rabbit hole into an entirely new alliance of characters. Alice herself is no longer a girl and in fact is fairly different from the innocent character we expect. She doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty and seems to be more than happy to enter into the criminal underworld. Hatcher is a psychotic companion, full of murderous thoughts but he also cares for Alice, so we will let him stay! There is little description of either character, so your mind is left to wonder and create them perhaps based off of other versions of this story.
It is immediately clear that The Rabbit has somehow wronged Alice and her goal is to find him and seek her revenge throughout the novel. Along her way she meets other familiar characters and deals with them as she sees fit. I have to say that one of the downfalls of this book for me was how built up certain events would be and then the actual climax was over in a matter of sentences. On one hand this defied story telling tropes, but on the other it took the reader on journey that had a rather disappointing end. It is for the this reason that I probably won’t be reading the sequel.
For a lot of this book it felt like I was reading it with beer goggles on, the bizarre scenarios Henry created were enough to have me floating away from reality. This was definitely a quick read, but I still can’t decide if it was actually a good one or not. The narrative became routine with how situations were resolved and so was therefore predictable, it left nothing to surprise me.
I’d definitely be interested to see what you guys think if you have also read it? Or if you’ve gone on to read the sequel?