Me and the dog look at the glass door together. The key’s stuck fast. I gently coax it with my fingers, but I can’t get it to turn.
‘Spring must be busted’ ” I tell the dog. I stand up, frowning at the bottom of the ball, trying to see hw to open it up. I give it one more turn and suddenly sounds come out of the box, itching the hair inside my ears.
‘Ha!’ I say to dog. ‘I did it.’
Clara’s world is broken. She has no family, only Andrew who found her living in her broken house and moved in with her. And Groom, who wants to take Clara away, across the river to the better place he is sure they find there. Clara doesn’t want to go – this world is what she has always known. Then she finds a broken music box, and sees the promise it holds, and suddenly her world is changing, though not for the better.
Claire’s world is whole, but her heart is broken. Her beloved Uncle Charlie has been in an accident, and she is filled with grief. All she has to remember him by is the music box he gave her the day she was born. Through the music she can escape some of her troubles, and connect with Clara’s world.
Claire and Clara are linked by the music box – or is that they are in fact two halves of the one girl? Claire is from a contemporary world, whilst Clara’s world is dystopian, populated with characters both frightening and colourful.
Only Ever Always is a clever, complex novel. The blend of first and second person narrative, the clash and connection between the two worlds and the two characters and the issues of family, grief, loyalty and more which are explored all combine to pack a pretty powerful punch in a relatively small package. Every word, every scene counts, making a really satisfying tale which leaves the reader both satisfied and contemplating.
Only Ever Always, by Penni Russon
Allen & Unwin, 2011
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