I'll start out by saying that I'm not normally a fan of authors messing with punctuation - dropping speech marks etc, so I was a bit wary about reading this and I was prepared to be highly irritated by it. However, this never happened. As soon as I started reading, I was drawn into Daisy's story and I could instantly see why the speech marks were dropped. In fact, it wouldn't have been so immediate and compelling had they been there. The only way I can describe it, is that reading How I Live Now was like being sat next to the narrator as they told you their story. The slightly breathless, tumbling narration was not the mark of a poor writer - far from it.
Meg Rosoff is clearly a hugely accomplished writer - her descriptions are vivid, engaging and compelling. The way the story built up - beginning with a magical English summer that took me back to my own childhood - was sublime. I don't think it matters here that we're not told much about Daisy's 'wicked stepmother', nor about the nuances of her eating disorder. It is enough that we engage with Daisy fully and wholeheartedly so that we are prepared to listen to what she wants to tell us (just as we would if we were listening to a friend). Daisy's had a past but it isn't that important - at least not once she becomes immersed in the world of her English cousins, embarks on her love affair with Edmond and is then, finally, plunged into the fallout from the war. No, the war isn't described in any detail. Again, this didn't matter - we knew as much as Daisy knew. We live through Daisy - she is our first and only source of information and, for that reason, I didn't find myself dissatisfied that I never knew exactly what the war was about.
Personally, I found this novel utterly beautiful and heart wrenching. I loved all the characters (because Daisy did) and I found myself sad to leave them. Four days after finishing this book, I'm still thinking about it - still wishing I was there with Daisy and her quirky, damaged family. As far as I'm concerned, that means a writer has done their job - and so much more. I will definitely be reading more of this writer's books.
on 7 March 2011
Meg Rosoff's novel for young adults won the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize 2004. The novel is very much a crossover novel - for young adults and adults alike.
How I live now is the story of Daisy, a 15-year-old Manhattanite. She's a funny character and this comes across as we pick up her thoughts on her new stepmother and being flown out to England by her father because a new baby is on the way. She's by no means perfect...and that's what makes her so real. She feels insecure about the changes in her family back in the States, she barely eats and is given to being overly dramatic.
England turns out to be nothing like she expected, thanks to the eccentric lifestyle of her Aunt Penn, and her four cousins. From the moment they meet Daisy and her cousin Edmond forge a bond...one which becomes extremely complicated without any adult supervision. For a while the children live an idyllic life - weeks of carefree play, weeks of Daisy and Edmond becoming closer than first cousins should...especially first cousins who are both under the age of 16.
War breaks out and changes the world forever. Daisy is parted from Edmond as soldiers take over their home and the girls and boys are separated. Daisy ends up with her youngest cousin Piper. The journey we're taken on is that of the girls witnessing war atrocities, starving and struggling to hang onto hope. Not until the end do we get a glimpse of what Edmond's war experience was.
My only criticism was that the dramatic conclusion seemed a little too sudden, but given that I found the plot excellent and the writing beautiful I'd rate it 4.9999/5.0.
on 6 October 2013
Planning a trip to London Film and Comic Con became more exciting when I heard that Malorie Blackman would be hosting a discussion panel with some YA authors. Meg Rosoff was one of the ones on the list so I knew I had to try one of her books.
I heard a lot about this book and the fact it was being released as a film so I requested it. My colleagues at work told me I would love it but I didn't really know much about it.
From the synopsis I expected an average YA book, bit of a love story with difficulties, but I was really surprised by what I got.
This book is actually centered around another war, what would happen if World War 3 broke out? This storyline hit me unexpectedly but totally worked.
The story is told by Daisy who is 15, she explains what is happening in her life and brings a raw realism to the situations around her.
This book has a very unique voice and the narrative is in a very different style to anything I have read before. It's written very much like you would think, a rush of thoughts and situations, fairly fast and occasionally jumbled. I worried it would annoy me when I started but I soon fell in love with it and was racing through the book.
There are no speech marks in this book, or very few at least, again that puzzled me at first but soon you just go with the flow and it kind of adds to Daisy's charm. Everything just works, it all falls into place and Daisy's 'voice' really comes through.
I found it very hard to put this book down and was blown away by everything, it's actually quite a dark and gritty book, with some scenes that may shock a bit what with dead bodies and violence but a really gripping read. Maybe not suitable for younger than 12 due to some of the scenes, but I would recommend it to Teen readers.
A story that will truly make you think and make you give your heart to Daisy. Everything that I thought I would dislike ended up making this book work. This would make for great discussions in book group.
I am now looking forward to seeing the film if I can get there.
on 24 August 2013
I really enjoyed reading this book and finished it in a very short time finding it difficult to put down once I'd started it. The story concerns Daisy, an American girl, who has been shipped from pillar to post a bit by her family who don't seem to know what to do with her. From the outset, it becomes clear that she's got some issues - particularly around eating - and it's likely that she's suffering from anorexia.
Then she is shipped off to stay with her cousins in a rambling pile in the English countryside. Here, she very quickly becomes stranded because of a war which breaks out between unknown factions (the specific enemies in this war are never named, the implication being that it was just one of hundreds of wars going on around the world, which had broken out close to home). However, this war, conversely, at first, at least, doesn't seem like the worst thing that could have happened to her. Here, in the rambling pile with the cousins, she finds happiness. And as long as the youngsters are left alone, they are very happy here together. However, when adults start to interfere, everything starts to fall to pieces, ending in tragedy.
The story has a nice retro feel to it - it reminded me of war stories coming out of the second world war - which seemed to add to the integrity of the story. Also, the nature of the conflict and how it springs up was entirely convincing. What I struggled with was the ending of the story - it seemed to me to be rushed somewhat, as if the author had suddenly tired of telling Daisy's tale. After everything they had been through, it seemed very unconvincing that Daisy would leave Piper alone in this war-torn and desperate country.
Still, disappointing ending aside, I enjoyed reading this novel and it's definitely worth a look.
on 20 April 2010
The story is about the 15 year-old Daisy. She was sent to Britain to her aunt and her cousins, because she wanted to get away from her stepmother. She has never met her cousins, but it seems the perfect summer. Daisy comes from a big city, New York. Now she lives at the countryside. She gets a new life, and she hasn't expected that. But suddenly everything changes. She falls in love with her own cousin. Edmond and Daisy develop a sexual relationship but is it true love? An unnamed enemy attacks London and war breaks out. Daisy, Edmond, Piper, Isaac and Obert don't care about it. They live in their own world, at the isolated farm. They have a lot of fun together, because there are no adults in the neighborhood. There are no rules. Miss Penn is a working mother and she's abroad for an international meeting. Because the threat of the war, the children have to be evacuated. The kids are separated, the girls to one location and the three boys to another. Will they each other ever see back?
I liked the story a lot, because there are many different topics in it: war, love, sexuality, responsibility, ... The relationship between Daisy and Edmond is very special. They are family, but the feelings that they have for each other are wonderful. I was most interested in their relationship, sometimes I forgot the rest of the story. I didn't really liked the writing-style of Meg Rosoff, sentences are too long. Daisy wants to tell so many things that she can't stop. You have to be very concentrated to read and understand the book.
Set in the near future where the news is filled with talk of war, 15-year-old Daisy is sent to England to live with her cousins. Outwardly cynical and tough, Daisy suffers from an eating disorder and clearly has issues following her father's marriage to a step-mother she despises. Her life changes forever though when she is met at the airport by her cousin Edmond, a boy with whom she shares an instant connection, who brings her to her aunt's house in the country. There she bonds with her other cousins Isaac (Edmond's twin) and Piper and Osbert and finds happiness for the first time. However, shortly after Daisy's aunt goes to Norway for peace talks, the cousins' idyll is spoilt by the outbreak of war and the five cousins find their lives thrown into chaos.
This is a difficult book to describe in that it's set in a speculative future but has supernatural undertones. These are incidental points to the main story however, which explores Daisy, her reactions to the events overtaking her and the relationship that she has with Edmond. It's Daisy's narration that makes the novel utterly beguiling - her dry sense of humour and ironic commentary work to illuminate events but at the same time cannot prevent her vulnerability from seeping through the cracks.
Edmond is a mysterious character - possessing a strange cool and an ability to know what Daisy is thinking. His twin Isaac has a similar uncanny ability to understand animals while 9 year old Piper is a font of knowledge about countryside lore. By contrast, Osbert is more of a cipher, there to move the plot along.
The story moves along quickly and while it would have been interesting for some events - notably details about the war and the circumstances leading to it - to be drawn out, given the focus of the story it isn't a problem until the final couple of chapters where there is a time jump that's perhaps a little too abrupt and left too many questions.
That said, this is an extraordinarily accomplished novel, the more so given that it was Rosoff's debut. Although it's aimed at the young adult market, it's a novel with a lot of cross-over appeal (evidenced through its many nominations).
This superb novel starts off fairly conventionally as 15 yr old New Yorker and anorexic Daisy is sent off to stay with her English cousins while her hated step-mom has a baby (Daisy's mom had died giving birth to her). Needless to say, the cousins are unconventional but Daisy starts to slot in and soon falls for Edmond. Her Aunt has to go to Oslo for a conference, leaving the kids to fend for themselves, and things start happening. A series of terrorist attacks mean the borders are closed and Aunt Penn can't get back. Then 'the enemy' takes the country, and the kids are split up to be billeted elsewhere. The rest of the story is how Daisy and nine year old Piper survive and try to get home and find the brothers amidst carnage in the countryside.
Unconventional in style, the first person story has the dialogue blended into the narrative with no punctuation, and important things are capitalised - as a New Yorker would!? But you quickly get used to it.
It was the introduction of the alternate time-line as the country is invaded that takes you by surprise after you're lulled into security by the bucolic setting which is reminiscent of a modern day 'Cold Comfort Farm'. I would have loved to have heard more about the boy's experiences, but it is Daisy's story after all. She and Piper manage to overcome tragedy and hardship, discovering hidden reserves to get home, only for Daisy to be whisked away back to the USA as soon as reach their goal. So the last section sees Daisy return to her cousins after several years recovery. But for this cop-out ending I would have given five stars, but it is a great read for teenagers and adults alike.
on 6 September 2015
Written in the first person perspective, how I live now is told as if Daisy is recollecting her thoughts and opinions rather than through a robotic format. Told with limited information, so that the reader feels as confused and lost as Daisy and her cousins in a world at war, adding to the atmosphere of the book.
Once you get over Daisy’s and Edmund’s uncontroversial relationship – they are both under-age and cousins!- then this is a brilliant story of how two lovers are torn apart by war and how love can not only break a heart but also mend it. The major theme for this book is survival-ship.
When I initially read How I Live Now, I didn’t really like it. Daisy was annoying, I hated the relationship between her and Edmund, and the way the book was narrated was frustrating – I wanted more facts. But after several rereads over the years I have started to love this book, and if I was in Daisy’s place this narration would be my own view. The tiny details hidden because they are not important, it is about being with the people you love and protecting one another.
on 22 December 2005
i first saw this book when i was browsing the shelves of the local waterstones and i read the blurp and i thought it sounded good but i decided against it i kept looking at it for months after and i finally decided to bhuy it when it was released in paperback. i can only say that i wish i had bought it sooner. the story is about a teenager who is shipped over to britain to stay with her aunts and cousions. upon being left alone with her cousins due to her aunt going on a bussiness trip there is an outbreak of war. with no adults the five teenagers go about their lives as normal and we begin to be told of food shortages and differences in life style.it is only when you reach the middle of the book that you gain real clarity into the book but i won't say what it is because to truely gain from the book you need to be confused at the beggining just as they would have been. this is a story of romance, love ,war ,politics, survival action and the human cost of war. the ending is thought provoking and it caused me to think seriously about the saying make love not war especially as i read it shortly after the attacks in london. this book is a definate read for those who want an unputtdownable novel and an uncertain ending i would recomend it to anyone 14+.
I was a little reluctant to start reading How I Live Now as I was convinced that at 18 years old, I had already passed the prime age for reading a novel such as this. I had listened to friends ranting and raving about this novel since I was around the age of eleven so I expected to find a really good novel, but one that perhaps I wouldn't be able to entirely relate to as I was too old. Fortunately, I was completely wrong and I greatly enjoyed the book.
How I Live Now is written from the first person perspective of Daisy, an American teenager forced to move to England by her new stepmother as there's a new baby on the way and the move is deemed what's 'best' for her. Thrust into an unknown world where she is surrounded by animals, nature and family as opposed to the cold city blocks of Manhattan, Daisy begins her new life in England. Whilst things seem to be going great for Daisy at first, war is brewing across the nation and her life gets turned upside down once again by its devastating effects.
Although this book is classified under 'teenage' fiction, I would highly recommend this to people of all ages. It is a touching story and the feistiness of Daisy, our protagonist, makes it easy to forget that she is only fifteen years old when these events take place. Daisy writes in a stream of consciousness style and there isn't a single line of reported speech in the entire book which takes a bit of getting used to. It's a little hard at first to figure out who's saying what and some sentences are so long that I feel like I'm running out of breath just reading them, but this is all part of the style. The writing is so naturalistic that I really feel like I'm in Daisy's head and her narrative is definitely what I would say the shining feature of this book is.
Something that I found incredibly confusing whilst reading the book was the time period in which it was set. Whilst it seemed fairly authentic in terms of its war setting there were references to Friday 13th (1980) and Lassie (1940) which made me question which war this book is set in. I firmly believed that this was set during WWII but having just looked the book up on wikipedia, it turns out it's set in a fictional third world war. This was not clear at all. As far as I can remember there weren't any references to the Internet or modern technology so there wasn't really any indication at all that the story is set in the twenty-first century. In retrospect, perhaps there were some clues when Daisy describes her old life in the States, but the majority of the scenes of this book could've been taken straight out of WWII England in my opinion.
The trailer for the film adaptation of How I Live Now, as well as the movie book cover will make you believe that a large chunk of this novel is about teenage romance, which it isn't really. There are a few elements of romance between Daisy and one of her cousins, which, now that I know this book is set in the 21st century, seem a little creepy. When I believed this book to be set in the 1940s, it seemed so much more normal for cousins to maybe fall in love, but in the century we're currently living in, it is a topic that would most almost certainly be considered inappropriate in a young adult novel such as this.
All in all, How I Live Now is a brilliantly written novel that isn't exactly filled with 'action', but it's a story you grow fond of and it touches your heart. When I finished reading it I was really quite happy with the story and thought it was an excellent book, but in retrospect, the fact that I didn't pick up that this novel is set in the 21st century makes me question it a little, as does the slightly incestuous relationship between Daisy and cousin. I shan't let these things tarnish my opinion of the story now but they certainly would've had a bigger impact on me if I had known about them prior to reading this novel. Perhaps it is the fact that I'm a slightly older reader that made these things stand out to me now, as I never heard any of my friends mention these things when they read this story years ago. So in conclusion, I would highly recommend this book to all readers as it is a fascinating portrayal of how a teenager's life is affected by war though, in my opinion, it is more likely to appeal to young-mid teens.