Book Reviews

Book Review: How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

We can’t always find a theme to blog about- luckily, we are ALWAYS reading books! Victoria is a long-time fan of female-led fiction, but like many readers, she’s a bit tired of Katniss-style heroines who are always strong enough, brave enough and smart enough. How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff is a contemporary young adult novel about upheaval, selfishness and sacrifice.

Daisy lands in England on the brink of World War Three. Within days her aunt has left for Europe, and she is left on the ramshackle family farm with cousins Osbert, Edmond, Isaac and Piper. The family has a deep connection to the land: Isaac only talks to animals, Piper’s goat lives in the farmhouse and Edmond rehabilitates injured birds. City-dweller Daisy is not used to physical work and struggles with her usually frugal diet. At some stage, her childhood fear of being poisoned by her stepmother has transformed into a powerful eating disorder. As Daisy slowly starts to feel at home, she and Edmond develop a strange, almost psychic connection.

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Would this goat convince you to leave New York for rural England?

The war encroaches slowly: first the telephone stops working, then the village doctor comes to take their painkillers. Each power cut is followed by deaths, usually from treatable illnesses. With the farm cut off from the rest of the world, Edmond and Daisy begin a sexual relationship.

It doesn’t last- supplies grows scarce, forcing the army further onto their land. The cousins are split up, with Daisy and Piper assigned to work long hours in an apple orchard. Daisy’s health returns, as she finds she needs to eat to preserve her energy. But the connection she has with Edmond is stretched thin. Her dreams keep drawing her back to the farmhouse, so she steals a map and sets off with Piper across the war-torn countryside.

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Saoirse Ronan (Atonement) plays Daisy in the 2013 film adaptation of How I Live Now

How I Live Now has been called “a modern Jane Eyre”, recalling the scene where Jane hears the ghostly voice of Mr Rochester. Readers looking for a gritty, realistic novel shouldn’t be put off by Daisy’s preternatural powers, as Rosoff has researched everything from animal anatomy to poisonous mushrooms.

Keeping her family together is more important to Daisy than keeping them safe. At one point she actually complains that Piper isn’t anorexic, and cannot walk for days without stopping for food. Rosoff’s writing style is famously light on punctuation, and Daisy comes across as highly-strung, short-tempered and sarcastic. She lacks the motherly instinct of dystopian heroines like Katniss Everdeen. But Daisy’s flaws- her duplicity, stubbornness and endurance- are undeniably useful to her survival.


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A very useful book for your survival kit.

Recommended reads:

Z for Zachariah (BOOK ZONE 823.91 OBR) has been adapted into a film starring Margot Robbie (Suicide Squad) Chris Pine (Star Trek: Into Darkness) and Chiwetel Ejiofor (The Martian). The novel is set after a nuclear war, which seems to have killed everyone except for 16 year-old Ann and her dog Faro. When she learns a man has been poisoned by the radiation in a nearby river, Ann allows him onto her farm and nurses him back to health. In his delirium, he reveals his name (Loomis) his profession (scientist) and one shocking truth: he is a murderer.

What I was (QUICK READS 823.92 ROS), also by Meg Rosoff, is set on the coast of East Anglia. Like Daisy, Hilary has been sent away by his family, having been expelled from two boarding schools. Finn, like Edmond, is self-sufficient, isolated and almost entirely silent. The two boys form a connection not unlike the cousins in How I Live Now, but it is illness, not war, that threatens to tear their quiet home apart.

Mud, Sweat and Tears (BOOK ZONE 910.92 GRY) is the autobiography of famous survivalist Bear Grylls. Formerly a soldier in the British Special Forces, Bear’s TV show Running with Bear Grylls has made him a worldwide celebrity. He’s thrown Channing Tatum out of a helicopter, fed Will Ferrell urine-soaked eyeballs, and hiked through Alaska with President Obama. If you’re planning to flee a war-torn country under cover of darkness, armed with nothing more than a map and a small cousin, this might be a useful book to take along!

References:

Cplbasilisk (2007) Baby goat accessed at https://flic.kr/p/2HxCxP on 27/08/2015

Mirror of erised (2013) Still of Saoirse Ronan (Daisy) and George MacKay (Edmond) in How I Live Now accessed at https://flic.kr/p/fEuB96 on 27/08/2015

Robert Burdock (2009) Glint! Shimmer! Shine! accessed at https://flic.kr/p/6rxqte on 27/08/2015

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