Always, like book #3 Now, is not narrated by Felix alone but also by a young biracial boy named Wassim, living in Eastern Europe with his Uncle Otto now that he parents are both dead. Wassim owns a book his grandfather, Amon Kurtz, had given to him called William Does His Best by Richmal Crompton, along with a note that tells him if he is ever in big trouble to get in touch with Wilhelm Nowak. Wilhelm Nowak, readers of Then may remember, is the name on Felix's false identity card given to him by Genia and Amon was a reluctant Hitler Youth boy who had befriended Felix because of their mutual love of Richmal Crompton's books. Wassim knows that Wilhelm is really Felix Salinger, who, he learns, is 87-years-old and living in s retirement home in Australia.
This is good because Uncle Otto, who by the way is white, is being used by a violent gang known as the Iron Weasels to store their stolen goods in his garage, and Wassim is being bullied by them because of being biracial. When things begin to heat up, and the Weasels almost kill Wassim, Uncle Otto, who knows about Felix, takes him to Australia and leaves him there.
Wassim tells Felix why he has come to him for help, and though Felix feels a strong bond with him, he is at first reluctant to return to Eastern Europe until the long racist arm of the Weasels extends into his personal life. But can an 87-year-old man and a ten-year-old boy fight a prejudice that is so rabid, so deeply rooted and just as violent as the Nazis had been? And can they also solve a mystery about property stolen by the Nazis and never found?
I couldn't wait to read this book, and even ordered it from England as soon as I could, then I read it in one sitting and afterwards I was sorry because it is the end of the Felix saga and I will miss looking forward to the next part of his story.
This is an intriguing story and, yes, you have to suspend your disbelief in part of it, but that was ok for me. Wassim is an endearing, optimistic, hopeful boy, with lots of personality similarities to Felix when he was young. Felix knows that Wassim will be facing some real hard truths about his life when they return to Eastern Europe, but he's there for him and he knows that so is gruff Uncle Otto. There is a part of me that is hoping Gleitzman to carry on the Wassim story since I would like to know him better.
Gleitzman does make a lot of references to the past Felix books, but I don't think that would be a problem for those who may not have read all of them. I'm not a big re-reader of books, but I am thinking I might re-read all seven Felix books.
What really makes me sad is how Gleitzman has brought the same themes of racism, bigotry, and hated full circle, and that they are still so much a part of our society.