“In the beginning, Man created the new women, the eves.”
And so begins. This dark, dystopian, unremitting social satire about conformity and male power. Female names are not even granted capitalisation. Bred in an underground laboratory, the eves are schooled in a single sex prison with only the ‘ceremony’ to look forward to. At the ceremony their fate will be decided and they will be sorted into one of three futures – companion (wife), concubine (slave) or chastity (nursing future eves) depending on how they rank against the other girls.
We follow lead character Freida for the ten months leading up to the ceremony as she fights to conform, hold on to her beauty and tries to guarantee top rank. Every element of her life is under the microscope, and regulated through various drugs, routines and strict ‘nurturing’ by the chastities. There is no chance of escape. No air. No light. No hope.
Louise O’Neill offers layer upon layer, wave after wave, hit after hit of menace and oppression and brutality. Only Ever Yours is the literary equivalent of quicksand; sucking you in deeper and deeper to her apocalyptic world. You will struggle for breath. Terrifyingly, as with any great dystopian novel, it is a world that we can all too easily recognise as our own.
This gripping and complex book by Louise O’Neill deserves wider recognition and readership, as does her second novel Asking For It.