Wednesday 20 January 2010

6) How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

Pages - 186

Published by Penguin Books in 2004

Challenges - Young Adult and Library Challenge

'The summer I went to England to stay with my cousins everything changed. Part of that was because of the war, which supposedly changed lots of things, but I can't remember much about life before the war anyway so it doesn't count in my book, which this is.'

Daisy has been shipped over from America to live with her unusual aunt and her four children who seem to run wild in the countryside. For the first few chapters, the book is lighthearted and funny, as you watch Daisy observing life on the farm. Her aunt is suddenly called away to Oslo and the children are left to play grown ups in her absence. As the days progress, Daisy feels a strong attraction to her cousin, Edmond and they try desperately to keep their feelings under control.

Then war breaks out in England and you watch as the story takes on a darker tone. The children stand back and watch as people start to panic, with food being bought in bulk and rationing begins again. The children's mother is unable to return home and contact with her is soon lost. The children then have the house taken over by the army and they are all shipped off to different parts of the country. The story then moves onto some quite tragic incidents, where the children learn very quickly that they need to grow up in order to cope with the horrific sites they witness.

How I Live Now is a portrayal of England, if war ever broke out within our country's boundaries. It is set slightly in the future and gives off a believable performance of how the British would cope with a country at war and full of terrorists. This book had the same affect on me as George Orwell's '1984'. It left chills down my spine, at the possibility of what could be. A glimpse as to how modern day Britain would cope in the event of war. It really made me wonder how all of us born after the Second World War would actually cope in this situation,as we have only ever dealt with war from a distance and from the past.

I really enjoyed reading this book, I thought the story line was fantastic. As I moved through the chapters, I felt as though I was slowly creeping down into a dark, dark cellar, as the darkness in the book gradually moved from grey to black.

I loved Daisy the main female character. She started out as your typical teenager, whose life revolves around immediate contact with the world, via text or email. You would think with the onslaught of war, that she would just crumble without Internet access, yet she learns to fight and to survive very quickly. She is left to look after Piper, her youngest cousin and takes on her maternal responsibilities with ease and actually better than some adults I know. The war makes her stronger and when she eventually reunites with Edmond, she has the strength to help him rebuild his life too.

Piper came across as an adorable child, who was loved by all. She had a great affinity with animals and was able to use her persuasive powers to get her dog, to help work on the farms. For such a young girl, she deals with her losses with dignity and grace and the war shapes her future role in life.

This book deals with some very important teenage issues, which seem to be very common these days. Daisy is slightly anorexic and her obsession with not eating at the beginning of the book, is rather disturbing. However, when food becomes scarce, Daisy realises how important it is to eat in order to keep up her strength. Sex also plays quite a big part within the story, though I did feel this was dealt with subtly if not safely.

There was a couple of tiny things that I had issues with and I really don't want to make a big deal out of them. Firstly, I struggled at first with the sexual relationship between Daisy and her cousin Edmond. Now this is something that I thought was illegal in England, but I have just found out that you can legally marry your first cousin here, however I am aware it is illegal in parts of America though. This doesn't really sit well with me, the thought of one of my girl's marrying my brother's son, just doesn't seem right. I would be interested in what you thought about this.

Secondly, I didn't like the way Daisy disappeared off to America near the end. I lost all my bearings as to what had happened and I felt concerned about who looked after Piper, when Daisy went home. It seems like Daisy was just whisked away and poor Piper was left to her own devices.

I did find her writing style a little difficult to read at the beginning, with the constant use of random capital letters for emphasis of different things. I also found punctuation to be a bit hit and miss, but I got the feeling the book had been written that way on purpose, to emphasise the voice of a teenager, who wouldn't care if she used full stops or not. Luckily, I only seemed to be dwell on the story's composition for the first couple of chapters and then I stopped noticing it, as it became more intense.

Other than these two points, I did really enjoy this book and will definitely be looking for more books by Meg Rosoff.


  1. I knew it was legal to marry your cousin, I remember watching one of those day time real life films about it and then reading up on it a bit more. I don't like the idea of it - I think that surely the bloodlines are to close and future children could ave problems - I ceratinly wouldn't like one of my girls to end up with a cousin, no.

    When I first started reading your review I thought it was going to be set in WW1 or 2 so to then read it is set in the future - I do like the sound of this one. I will look out for it :)

  2. Back again, just having a bloggy catch up and this review was on one of the new blogs I'm following. Love the sound of it - sounds a lot like your kind of stuff too. Have your read them?

  3. Yeah, I'd say I was a little weirded out by the idea of two first cousins going at it. That's definitely not what I'd like for my children either. I think that's just Rosoff's thing - unusual love interests. Do read more Meg Rosoff though, she's fantastic.

  4. Carmen - it is definitely worth a read. You were right about those books too, they are definitly the type I would read. I will add them to my list.

    Clover - I will read more of her books as I did enjoy it more than not. I was just reading the other posts you left for me and you are definitely right about us always picking the same books to read. It is kinda freaky.

  5. Cousins you say, well creepy, but I guess there is a point to it in the book

  6. I tried to read this but just hated Daisy so much I gave up after about 40 pages.

  7. That sounds like a powerful book! We're the same way in the US - we've only dealt with war at a distance and have forgotten what it's like to make sacrifices.

  8. I read this book some time ago but upon reading your review, realize how much I do NOT remember from it at all. Eek! I do remember enjoying it :-)

  9. Excellent review, Viv. This was the last book I read of 2009 and I didn't know how to explain what I thought of it in a review. You've pretty much hit the nail on the head about what I thought of it.

    I really enjoyed Rosoff's writing style in this. I love a book that isn't afraid to challenge the norm when it comes to style. To me, as you said, it really brought out the teenager's voice.

    The ending, where Daisy was suddenly whisked by to America, bothered me slightly too. I found the explanation quite vague and it seemed to have come from nowhere.

    As far as Daisy's relationship with Edmond was concerned ... I don't know. I recently read The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan and a sexual relationship between brother and sister happens in that. I guess I have a high tolerance for subjects like this. I've read so many classic books from the 18th and 19th century in which characters marry their cousins, that I'm used to it.

    I knew you were legally allowed to marry your first cousin in this country (Thanks to Henry VIII) and I guess I'm very liberal-minded when it comes to that sort of thing. I think, as with any relationship, as long as it's between two consenting adults, they can do what they like. (Then again, I've never lusted after any of my cousins.) I could tolerate the relationship between Daisy and Edmond, as a result, so it didn't really bother me all that much.

  10. I would have a difficult time with the same things you mentioned, Vivienne. The punctuation bit sounds like it could be a bit too gimicky.

  11. I was able to move beyond the cousin-romance in my reading, but I find it's a sticking point with some customers at the book shop where I work. It's unfortunate, because I think it's a good book, but I often find myself hesitant to suggest it.

  12. I can see how the writing takes some getting used to, but one of the things I loved the most was Daisy's voice. It wouldn't be the same without it, I don't think! I'm glad you overall enjoyed it :)

    On a side note, I love the cover of your edition! So pretty.

  13. I agree that cousins are too close, and that would probably make me uncomfortable too, but the rest of the book sounds really appealing so I'm adding it to my wish list.

    My mom is adopted, and once when we were visiting her step-sister who had a son my age, they tried to fix us up. They even sent us to a water/theme park for an entire today alone together (we were 16). I think we were both thinking "Ew!" even though he was a step cousin and my mom was adopted (so no blood relation at all), it was still too weird. What were they thinking? :)

  14. This one does sound like a good one. I haven't read a book by this author yet.

  15. I haven't read anything by this author but the story sounds quite appealing. I'm going to see if our library has it.

  16. I wasn't a huge fan of this one when I listened to it on audio, but I think that's because I had thought it was a historical novel set during WWII, so my expectations were way off! And dystopian/apocolyptic (I know I spelled that wrong. *sigh*) books usually just bother me. I do think Rosoff's writing and characterisation was good, so I want to try her Victorian historical novel!

    The cousin thing skeeves me out. Completely. When I think about my male cousins, even trying to imagine kissing one of them makes my whole brain freak out. And my face looks like I bit into a lemon, lol. So that's my opinion on the issue!

  17. Ok, now I've read the comments, and I'll say that my reaction to cousins marrying is my personal one. I do read enough classics/historical lit that in that context, I don't have the same freakout. lol

    I've also read books with brother/sister incest, but I think in all of them, they portrayed it as fundamentally wrong, so I had less of an issue with it. As a reader, not as a peron, lol.

  18. Ooh, I feel like a whole debate went on while I was tucked up in bed asleep. Sometimes this time difference can be a real bummer, so apologies for not responding sooner, but in my absence, I did sleep, get the girls up and go to school, etc.

    Blodeuedd - I am still trying to get over the cousin's situation.

    Amanda - I can see what you mean about Daisy.

    Bermudaonion - yes, America's relationship with living with war is very similar, although I imagine living through 9/11 has a major effect on all the country. We felt enough of the impact over here, which caused us to live in fear.

    Aarti - I can't deny it was a good book,it just has a few points I didn't like.

    Ceri - thank you. I need to read The Cement Garden but I do know it will upset me.

    As to the relationship between Edmund and Daisy - I think your right my tolerance is low. It just doesn't sit well with me and I thought I was quite open about most relationships. I just keep thinking it is family, uughh!

    Suko - it has been interesting to see who agrees and disagrees. It is an unusual topic to discuss.

    Charley - I completely agree about it being a good book, it is as Ceri mentioned above, a lot of us have a low tolerance to this type of relationship.

    Nymeth - I loved the way Daisy changed. How she grew up and took on such responsibilities. I enjoyed her voice, it was just the capital letter issue that really bothered me and then that was only for a little bit.

    Alyce - so you have experienced it first hand and understand how I feel. It is just too close for comfort. I would have lost it with my mothe if she had done that.

    Teddyree & J.Kaye - I would suggest reading it but with an open mind.

    Eva - My reaction to cousins is definitely a personal thing too. I would never stop anyone doing it; I just wouldn't have wanted to do it myself, but then my cousins were definitely not my type. I probably would intervene if it was one of my children,especially as they have grown up so close to their cousins. I imagine it would cause a terrible rift within the family. It would be very hard to come to terms with.

    I want to thank everyone for giving their opinion on the matter. It is lovely to see everyone's point of view.

  19. This sounds interesting.
    It is illegal to marry your first cousin here. I wouldnt think its that a great an idea to wed and have children with someone that close genetically. I dont know if it would bother me while reading.

    Punctuation issues like that would bother me though.

  20. Interesting. Very interesting. I don't think I'd mind marrying my cousin if I really, really love him. When it comes to the matters of the heart, it's really hard to say. Nothing is ever straightforward...


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