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Unspecified and uninfluential climatic disasters made the world Louise O’Neill talks about; the countries collapsed in the Zones (European, American and Chindia), macro-areas that group the residual population, the story is set in the European Zone, but the way they work is standard.
In the Zones the population evolution is controlled, the society, now clearly misogynist, allows only male child to be born, them destined to inherit their fathers activities and to manage everything (from production, commerce, law, and government), while women are genetically created towards an aesthetic ideal to satisfy better men taste.
The eves, as the women category is defined, grow up in schools where they learn to do make up, to dress, to compete to be the most beautiful (and there is always room for improvement), where they always take drugs to sleep, to have a better skin, to maintain the correct body weight,… Their education (that of course does not cover reading, to avoid unprogrammed ambitions) ends at their 16th year, when they meet the men of their age that will be able to choose their companions.
After the Ceremony the eves can be a become few things: they can be companions, so wives, so mothers – and if they don’t there is the risk of they are substituted, by the way they do not last after being forty, since aging is ugly – or concubines that satisfy every need, or chastities that teach in the eves schools. Or, last and most unlikely chance, they can be sent underworld to be studied in case of malfunctioning, in order to correct the future generation of eves.
Only ever yours is the story of frieda, an eve at her last year (and yeah, their value is so little their names do not deserve the capital letter), and she has to face come changes: in addition to the tension for the last year of school – and the perspective to meet the Inheritants – frieda tries to maintain her friendship with isabel, the most beautiful eve of frieda’s group, always first in the rankings, who lately has very strange behaviours, like she’s trying self-destruction.
frieda is in the middle between the love for her friend and the desire to belong to the group of the most popular eves, who always envied isabel and who are ready to bully her whenever they find a way. And while frieda’s world seems to shatter the last year goes on and the guys come to meet the girls.
Only ever yours is an engaging novel that does not makes space for happiness, not because it tells fake and evil things, but because it takes to extreme real and true things. On one side the idea of women as wives and mothers or whores, without taking into account ambitions, desires and emotions; in the novel the eves are something to own and to trow away when they are not interesting anymore.
On the other the envy, the evil comments made at the back of other girls, because she is too fat, she is too thin, how that color poorly suits her, how did she dress, I would be better in that dress, am I beautiful enough, am I thin enough, I have to eat less, look at my thighs, look at my hairs,… because sometimes it happened also to us to make comment and to envy and to compare ourselves with the models, sometimes wrong, that are proposed us.
Only ever yours is a dramatic novel that however could help thinking about what we are and what we would actually be.
Thanks to the publisher for providing me the copy necessary to write this review.
* Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill ★★★★☆
*I read this book in english