Review Blog

Aug 31 2012

After by Morris Gleitzman

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Viking, 2012. ISBN 9780670075447.
(Age 12 +) Highly recommended. Although this novel is the fourth one to be written by Morris Gleitzman in his Once series, from a plot perspective, it would be number three chronologically, as it picks up the story after Then and opens with Felix hiding in a farmhouse. Poor Felix has been forced to grow up quickly as he has struggled to survive during the Holocaust. The innocent narrative voice Felix brought to Once has been replaced by a more realistic perspective on life. He now knows that humans can be cruel to each other and cruel to children. This more realistic approach brings a touch of poignancy to the observations that Felix makes about his current life, especially when he reflects on the role of parents and the difficulties he faces in his unwanted role of parent to a group of children in the latter stages of After.
One of the strengths of this novel is the air of credibility that is maintained. Felix has survived against the odds but he has needed the support of adults to do so, as would be expected in a time of war. The subject matter of the Holocaust is not an easy one for young readers but Gleitzman skilfully crafts this story. Death and cruelty are not shied away from but are dealt with sensitively so that even young readers (in upper primary school or lower secondary) can understand the struggle to survive during wartime without being too terrified by the horror of the situation. The simplicity and brevity with which Felix writes about events helps to minimise the potential trauma of the reading experience. The fact that most readers will know that Felix survives (to be a grandfather in Now) will no doubt also help young readers. Furthermore, there is a positive message that underlies the grimness of the main story: for even in times of darkness, Felix constantly finds glimmers of light in the friendship and compassion of others. The best of humanity will always be there to outweigh the worst. And the story concludes on a positive note, albeit mingled with tears and loss.
Deborah Marshall

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