Now completes the brilliant trilogy Once, Then, Now. The narrator in the third book is, as in the other two, a pre-teen child, aware of the world around her, yet without an adult’s understanding of the reasons for what she observes. The voice is so perfect the reader marvels that author Gleitzman pulls off this tour de force. As in Once and Then, every chapter’s first word and the novel’s last is the title of the book. But Now differs from the first two novels; it swaps narrator, setting, and danger. The narrator is Zelda, granddaughter of Felix, consciously named for his Polish wartime sidekick. The setting is Australia. The danger is no longer the Nazis, but a raging brush fire complicated by school bullies and Zelda’s classmate who is close to death. The story provides closure for readers of the series. They learn that Felix survives, escapes to Australia, becomes a famous, beloved surgeon and meets other Holocaust survivors. Aging, retired Felix is a pale figure compared to his past adventures. He rises to his old self when he and Zelda, who comes to stay with him while her parents are on a medical mission to Africa, are threatened by the out-of-control fire. The two of them perform heroic surgery under primitive conditions, racing the raging flames. Zelda’s presence revives Holocaust memories for Felix, reintroduces the birthday locket, reminds readers of Felix’s sad back-story, and explains the factors shaping Felix as a person.
This novel shares the series’ joy in and power of storytelling, and we see a greatly surprised Zelda who does not know what the reader knows. With charm and imagination, with the strong clarity of a youthful voice, Now reinforces the truth that life goes on with the bad past staying in the past, while the good past guides one forward. For its excellent writing and content, Now is highly recommended for readers age 10 and up.