Monday, September 3, 2012

Now - Morris Gleitzman

Title: Now (sequel to Once and Then)
Author: Morris Gleitzman
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company, 2012 (Hardcover)
Length: 182 pages
Genre: Children's Realistic Fiction, Historical Fiction
Started: August 31, 2012
Finished: September 2, 2012

From the inside cover:

Felix is a grandfather. He has accomplished much in his life and is widely admired in the community. He has mostly buried the painful memories of his childhood, but they resurface when his granddaughter, Zelda, comes to stay with him. Together, armed only with their gusto and love, they face a cataclysmic event, one that can help them achieve salvation from the past, but also brings the possibility of destruction.

Set in the present day, this is the final book in the series that began with Once and continued with Then. It is...Now.

I fell in love with Once and Then when I first read them because they were Holocaust stories written with an amazing, authentic child voice.

Now is a little different because it takes place 70 years later when Felix has long since moved to Australia from Poland, had a family, and retired from a successful career as a surgeon. His son and daughter-in-law are doctors working in Darfur and their 11-year-old daughter Zelda (named after Felix's friend from Once and Then) is sent to live with Felix while they're gone. Felix is still obviously affected by the trauma from his childhood and Zelda tries her best to help him deal with it. The two are later trapped in their remote area by increasing bushfires (based on Australia's Victorian bushfires in February 2009) and must not only save themselves but also others in town.

Zelda narrates this book as opposed to Felix, so the voice is still childlike (although she seemed a bit younger than eleven at times which threw me off), but the impact of the naive childlike voice isn't quite as profound as in the two previous books because the horrors they're narrating aren't nearly the same. So with that in mind, this book doesn't have quite the same impact as the previous two, but it's still enjoyable. I do feel for Zelda though, she's given a name that is a major trigger for her grandfather (he never refers to her by her actual name), and is living with him trying to understand his behaviours and not to drudge up memories that make him feel bad. That just goes to prove that therapy is a traumatized person's best friend.

Now isn't on the same level with Once and Then due to the change in subject matter, but it's worthwhile because it completes Felix's story and also helps to illustrate that certain horrors continue to haunt people long after the experience.

Thoughts on the cover:
I like the change in covers from the original Australian versions to the American versions (but I'm pretty sure they're all changed to reflect the new look now). The image used in this review is not exactly what my book's cover looked like, the locket on my cover is heart-shaped, the chain is straighter to resemble the barbed-wire tightrope that Felix and later Zelda walk on in the redesigned covers for Once and Then, and the blurb at the top is different.

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