Thursday, 1 September 2011

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

Released: February 2006
Publisher: Klett Ernst / Schulbuch
Pages: 210
Buy The Book: Amazon

“Every war has turning points and every person too.”
Fifteen-year-old Daisy is sent from Manhattan to England to visit her aunt and cousins she’s never met: three boys near her age, and their little sister. Her aunt goes away on business soon after Daisy arrives. The next day bombs go off as London is attacked and occupied by an unnamed enemy. As power fails, and systems fail, the farm becomes more isolated. Despite the war, it’s a kind of Eden, with no adults in charge and no rules, a place where Daisy’s uncanny bond with her cousins grows into something rare and extraordinary. But the war is everywhere, and Daisy and her cousins must lead each other into a world that is unknown in the scariest, most elemental way.

Although this book is billed as a novel for older children, I found some of the themes touched upon to be much more adult than that. I don't know what I was expecting when I first picked up this book some years ago but it wasn't the underage sex, incest, horrific violence and depictions of war that I became enthralled with. 'It would be much easier to tell this story,' Daisy explains, 'if it were all about a chaste and perfect love between Two Children Against The World At An Extreme Time in History, but let's face it, that would be a load of crap.'

The novel is written in a beautiful stream-of-consciousness style that barely gives you a moment to breathe. Although I first read How I Live Now at least four or five years ago, there was one passage that sticks in my mind to this day as being so simple and yet incredibly beautiful and relatable - "We were quiet for the longest time just listening to the rain on the window with his leg resting against mine and a feeling flying between us in a crazy jagged way like a bird caught in a room. The feeling which had been starting up for a while now was so strong it made me dizzy and so far we'd just been pretending it was what cousinly love felt like and all that garbage you tell yourself when you want to pretend something's not really happening."

The image of the bird caught in a room is something I think we can all relate to, that odd feeling of palpable emotion. As you can see from that passage, when I said you barely get a moment to breathe, I meant it. Rosoff, or rather, Daisy, doesn't seem to live commas or punctuation very much at all, and others I've spoken to who have also read this book found it very off-putting. I, however, found it engaging - it really made me feel as though I was in this girl's head, thinking her thoughts with her.

How I Live Now has won countless awards, and rightly so. It's not for the faint-hearted, and the ending requires some thought. But it's a book that will always stick with you for a whole host of reasons, not least the sharp and sarcastic protagonist, her utterly captivating family and the oddly romantic dystopian world Meg Rosoff so masterfully creates.

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