Wednesday, 19 September 2012

After - Morris Gleitzman (#4)

**This is the fourth book in the Once series by Morris Gleitzman featuring Once (review), Then (review) and Now (review). However, Gleitzman says, and I agree, that they don't need to read in order to understand the story**


When I finished Now, I thought I was done with Felix's story. I moved on as did Felix and I was safe in the knowledge that Felix turned out just fine and didn't die during the Holocaust. 
I think so did Morris Gleitzman, as he says in his Author's Note. 

When I discovered that After was being released, I had a mixture of anticipation and dread. Here was an amazing trilogy that I loved, although ended not so well, and now an extra book, an after thought, was being added on the end. This book wouldn't be good. Nah ah. Yet I still wanted to read it. 
So when an anonymous commenter asked if I could get a copy of this, read it and post a review, I thought it was time to enter Felix's crazy and dangerous world one last time.

Synopsis: Set in 1945 between Then and Now, Felix faces some of his greatest and challenging adventures of the Second World War. The Nazis have taken his parents, have killed Zelda and those he loved, and now, they have ruined his 13th birthday. Felix struggles to find hope when he loses mostly everything in the last most dangerous agonising stages of war. Soon, he meets Yuli, a young woman helping Felix find his way, hoping that neither of them disappear before the end of the war. 

Review: After is simply beautiful. Through Felix's innocent naive narration, we discover a world where everything is not quite what it seems and danger is lurking at every corner, all read with a poignant under layer where you, as a reader, know that some of the events are utterly true.

This is certainly not a comfortable read. Any reader cannot help feeling this sinking feeling as the book progresses, the Holocaust comes alive through the eyes of thirteen year-old Felix. For those that are loyal readers of the Once series, we were first introduced to him at aged 6, running away from a Catholic orphanage his parents left him in (so he would not be taken to a concentration camp). What I have loved about this series is seeing Felix get older, I mean it's hardly a desirable childhood. 
In my review for Now, I wrote that I didn't think Felix would be the type of person to fight violently against the Nazis. But in this book, that completely changed. This portrayal of Felix shows his grown-up side and I left reading this book with a smile on my face because it's now a teenager!

Gleitzman's writing is neither too intellectual or patronising. It has the right balance of being childlike but not annoyingly so. I would say this is an easy read, due to the length, but as I hope I've displayed so far, it isn't. Felix's childlike narrative and naivety makes this book all together more emotional and shocking while describing some of the horrors that happened during WWII.

There is nothing more I can really say about this book that hasn't already been said in my previous reviews for the Once series. These books DO NOT need to be read in order, although of course, some things in After may reveal events from Once and Then.

This story has captured mine, and many other reader's, imagination of the young Jewish boy from Poland - Felix. This novel manages a perfect mix of shock, horror and danger with the lovely childlike narration from Felix. It's fair to say his chats with Dom (a horse) in this book definitely made it less intense to death/killing scenes a few pages previously.

Any reader will close this book with Felix in their mind for a while longer. This series is one of the most harrowing books I have ever had the pleasure to read and I think all the credit for that goes to the fantastic and desperately suffering character of Felix. I'm so glad Felix was alright in the end. And that the series ended superbly this way.

I give it a 5 out of 5

Author's Website: http://www.morrisgleitzman.com/
Pages: 209
Publisher: Puffin
Challenges: Historical Fiction

Other Books in the series:
Once #1
Then #2
Now #3

Related Books (set during Second World War):

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