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Always

By Morris Gleitzman
Reviewed by Barbara Braxton

Once I escaped from an orphanage to find Mum and Dad.

Then I had a plan for me and Zelda.

After the Nazis took my parents I was scared.

Soon I hoped the Nazis would be defeated and they were.

Maybe there will peace and happiness for Felix at last.

Now Zelda learns her grandfather’s story.

Always stay hopeful…

In this incredible series that has been 16 years in the writing, Gleitzman has tackled the most confronting of issues in the world’s recent history spotlighting the prejudice, the persecution, the racism, the horror, the violence, the death and the ever-present fear that was the reality of the times and which form the stories of their grandparents and their great-grandparents who are at the root of today’s multicultural Australia.  And now the final chapter has been written…”I’d always known that this story would take us back to where we first met Felix, and that we’d be taken there by his own voice, as we were that first time in Once. But in Once Felix was ten years old. In Always he’s eighty-seven.”  But from the very first chapter the prejudice, the persecution, the racism, the horror, the violence, the death are still there.  Has history taught us nothing? Or has it taught us but we have failed to learn?

In these current times of lockdowns and restrictions those who are older try to help our younger ones cope with the isolation by saying things like, “At least you’re not sleeping in a train tunnel because there are bombs dropping on your home” but whilst a fact of life for so many at the time, it is  too far removed for them to understand.  So this series with the story told by those who were there, who lived it at the same age as they are brings home what that sort of deprivation is, and perhaps gives them hope of better things to come. It is a story as relevant now as it was when it first began and even though those original readers, those who “have now grown old but are still young” will want to read this final chapter.

The impact of the series, its fame, the power of Gleitzman’s words, story and vision will attract more readers and reviewers and nothing that I can write will enhance what already exists. It is time for me to renew my first acquaintance with Felix from all those years ago, follow his journey all over again and then savour the full circle of his life.  In the  story of the writing of this final chapter, Gleitzman says “I hope you feel it was worth the wait.”  All I can say is, “It absolutely was!”

Viking Penguin 2021

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