What’s it all about?:
In a world in which baby girls are no longer born naturally, women are bred in schools, trained in the arts of pleasing men until they are ready for the outside world. At graduation, the most highly rated girls become “companions”, permitted to live with their husbands and breed sons until they are no longer useful.
For the girls left behind, the future – as a concubine or a teacher – is grim.
Best friends Freida and Isabel are sure they’ll be chosen as companions – they are among the most highly rated girls in their year.
But as the intensity of final year takes hold, Isabel does the unthinkable and starts to put on weight. ..
And then, into this sealed female environment, the boys arrive, eager to choose a bride.
Freida must fight for her future – even if it means betraying the only friend, the only love, she has ever known. . .
What did I think?:
Oh my gosh, this book. There was a lot of buzz about Only Ever Yours on Twitter just before it came out and I really hoped when I came to read it that it didn’t fall prey to the dreaded “over-hype monster.” Luckily, I had absolutely nothing to worry about and this debut novel from the hugely talented Louise O’Neill is truly mind-blowing. It’s the kind of book you enjoy but not in the usual way that you would enjoy something. It’s a very uncomfortable piece of dystopian/speculative fiction that you can draw surprising (and horrifying) comparisons with the world we live in right now and a possible future existence.
In this alternative future, woman are now scientifically and genetically engineered to be as close to perfect as possible and their only function in life is for the service and pleasure of men. Groups of girls known as “eves,” are trained in special schools to fall into one of three categories: one (and the most desirable) to be a companion for a man i.e. bearing him children for life, two, to be a concubine and available purely to satisfy men’s sexual urges and three, to be a chastity who teach other eves but remain without a partner.
The school is absolutely brutal. Academic, it is not. In fact, being academic is actually a form of insult to these girls. They are taught merely how to be beautiful, how to look after a man and one of the most important things – how to remain slim and desirable. frieda and isabel are two of these girls, best friends but in fierce competition with each other and desperate to rank in the “top ten” of their final year which pretty much guarantees that they will become a companion. And no, grammar police, I didn’t make a mistake. The girls don’t even have capital letters to their names, that’s how worthless the life of a woman has become. However, when isabel begins to gain weight and the pressure cooker of so many girls together begins to explode, frieda must assess what’s most important, her best friend or her future?
This book was both hideous and amazing on so many levels. Hideous because of the issues it addresses, like self-esteem, bullying, eating disorders, objectification of women… the list goes on! Amazing because of the way it deals with them. Louise O’Neill puts a harsh and unforgiving spotlight onto a lot of real problems that both young girls and older women go through today and this honest, no holds barred exploration of these issues is both admirable and makes for an incredibly compelling and at times, nail-biting read. Be prepared to feel uneasy and disgusted by this narrative but if you’re anything like me, hugely relieved that we have a writer out there like this who’s prepared to speak about these kinds of things in a world where sadly so many women are still not equal.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):