Friday 10 June 2011

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

For my 21st birthday (way back in 2007!), I got a lovely collection of Penguin Celebration paperbacks and most of them turned out to be great books (English Passengers, White Teeth, How to be Good, Notes on a Scandal, The Other Side of the Story).  Sitting lonely beside them for all that time has been How I Live Now.

How I Live Now tells the story of fifteen year old Daisy, who is sent to England by her new Stepmother to live with her cousins in the countryside.  Whilst she is there war breaks out and Daisy and her cousins must learn to survive and cope with all of the horror it brings.

The best and worst thing about this book was that it was written in the style of a stream of consciousness.  At first this took a lot of getting used to and Daisy came across as superficial and silly and I did have to push myself through the first few chapters.  But as the book progressed, I was really sucked into Daisy's world and I started to appreciate how Meg Rosoff has created one of the most realistic and touching portrayals of being a teenager I have ever read.  Like most teenagers, Daisy is a bundle of contradictions; weak and strong, silly and serious and shallow but also capable of very profound insights in a no-nonsense kind of way.  She matures massively throughout the book and feels almost like a real person by the end.

Even though we never get to find out much about the war and it's all a bit dystopian, Rosoff does a good job in a short number of pages of describing the reality and horror of war.  There was one passage in particular where I could almost feel the emotion humming off of the page.

The one weak point for me was the love story.  Not because Daisy and Edmond are cousins, but because this book was Daisy's book and we never really understood Edmond or the attraction between them.  I much preferred the way Rosoff wrote about Daisy's relationship with her younger cousin, Piper, and how this sisterly relationship helped her work things out.

Verdict: A quirky, touching read.
Score: 5 out of 5
Source: Shelf.


  1. I just read What I Was by the same author, and had a similar experience- simple but engaging to the end.

  2. This sounds interesting - I actually really like stream of consciousness writing when it's done well, but your point about the love story is a good one. Seeing only one side of the relationship would make it less appealing.

  3. Stream of consciousness is a teenager's world, isn't it? :) This sounds fascinating. I've heard the author's name before somewhere...I need to look up what else she has written. Thanks for the review :) P.S. Can't wait to hear what you think of 'Salem's Lot!

  4. Jenny - I want to read What I Was after enjoying this one so much.

    Lisa - I like stream of consciousness too, but it can be so bad. Especially if not much interesting happens to the main character.

    Teacher/Learner - Yes, it is very teenage, we're all self-absorbed as teenagers :P
    I'm loving Salem's Lot so far but I've still got a way to go. Sometimes I wish I could tell life to just stop so I can get a good book finished.

  5. What a fabulous gift to receive - I'd die for a collection of Penguin Celebration paperbacks. Happy to hear you enjoyed this one.

  6. This book was my first Meg Rosoff and I have since become a fan of all of her books. Thanks for your take and thanks for stopping by my latest posts. I agree, you make your family your own.

  7. Great review! I've got this book to read but unfortunately I didn't like Rosoff's other book The Bride's Farewell, which was shortlisted for the Carnegie Award. I hope I like this one better :)

  8. This is the kind of book you can't put down, one you wish would never end. Some people may quibble over Daisy's rambling thoughts. The sentences are long and the author and editor obviously didn't think punctuation essential. But Daisy's voice comes to you right as if she is talking and thinking, true and real and heartbreaking.

    I highly recommend this book to both teens and adults.

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