How I Live Now Paperback – 30 Jun 2005
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It would be much easier to tell this story 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 crap. Daisy is sent from New York to England to spend a summer with cousins she has never met. They are Isaac, Edmond, Osbert and Piper. And two dogs and a goat. She's never met anyone quite like them before - and, as a dreamy English summer progresses, Daisy finds herself caught in a timeless bubble. It seems like the perfect summer. But their lives are about to explode. Falling in love is just the start of it. War breaks out - a war none of them understands, or really cares about, until it lands on their doorstep. The family is separated. The perfect summer is blown apart. Daisy's life is changed forever - and the world is too.
About the Author
Meg Rosoff was born in Boston, USA. She has worked in publishing, public relations and most recently advertising but thinks the best job in the world would be head gardener for Regents Park. Meg lives in Highbury, North London.
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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.
One of the main differences is with the characters and character development. The character who differs most is the main character Daisy. In the film she is abrasive, bitchy, cold etc at first, and to some extent after first meeting her. This is toned down massivley in the book, and the film makes Daisy seem less "normal" , she seems to have more issues in the film. And I find film Daisy more relatable due to this xd and therefore prefer film Daisy. However one problem I had with the film is Daisy and Edmund's relationship seemed rushed. And on this front the book does improve on this, as the book is longer than the film and the time from them first meeting to them being seperated feels longer in the book. This combined with the fact book Daisy feels more "normal" and the book does a better job of convincingly portraying Daisy as more slutty, along with Edmund through her thoughts on him, and in the book it feels more realistic for Daisy and Edmund to start having sex and start a relationship so soon after meeting. Also the other male in the household who's name I forget(especially as I think it's different in the book, and in both only has a small role) is just a family friend in the film if I'm not mistaken, but is a cousin in the book, and it makes more sense in my opinion for him to be a cousin. Finally Isaac is totally different, probably the biggest change apart from Daisy, and I prefer film Isaac, book Isaac is quiet, in touch with animals etc...remind you of anyone? Yep he is too much like Edmund, the film does a good job at making him his own character. But on that front too the film also achieves this with Edmund. In the book he isn't portrayed as in touch with animals as he is in the film, Isaac is more really, I think the film stole some of Isaac's qualaties for Edmund tbh. And yeah Isaac and Edmund just seem too similar in the book, and generally the film portrays Edmund as more interesting and distinctive. Plus it helps that the cast in the film are just amazing, Ronan being one of my favourite actresses. You'll notice I didn't mention piper, and that is because Piper is largely the same. Just as adorable :p .
Then there is the issue of the war. The book is longer and in my opinion portrays the build up to the war, and the war in general better, though how it is portrayed in the film is pretty good. However one gripe I have is that the book does very well at portraying how dangerous the war is to the average citizen, the UK as a whole, and even the world, but not as good at portraying the danger to the main characters. But this might be because I saw the film previously, which does the reverse, focussing more on the characters in terms of immediate danger, and less on the world at large. So there's pros and cons with both depictions, the book does a better job at world building, the film does better at showing the constant threat the main characters face.
As for the ending, well I can't say too much in case anyone hasn't seen the film, and especially if anyone hasn't read/listened to the book. But the comparisons are what you'd expect from what I'd say already,, but I again prefer the film's ending. So in summary the film is better in many ways, but the book is better in some ways. So I'd suggest listening to the book first, then watching the film, especially as the book does do a better job at world building. Looking at the book by itself, without comparing it to the film it really is very good, and although I prefer a fair few things in the film, and have a couple of minor issues with the book, it's an amazing book, with an amazing plot and characters, and definatly a good listen.
I think initially we're not supposed to like Daisy - she doesn't afterall like herself all that much. It's in watching her become more herself and learning to see herself through other peoples' eyes that makes her an engaging character that we come to love too. The style choice that initially put me off was all about voice. Once I'd persevered through the jarring beginning, it really worked. This book is going to linger with me a long time which is the best advert for a book that there is, as far as I'm concerned. Daisy's voice does mature as the book goes on and I love the characters of her English relatives - especially Piper.
Perhaps best of all, while this does look at war and it's senselessness, and how a teenager stuck in the middle of it might try and make sense of it, it's not really about war but about its effects. This has a happy ending but it's not untinctured by lingering sadness. No one really goes through this unscathed. If like me you tried it and put it down, I'd urge you to pick it up again and have another go. 4.5 Well earned stars.
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