How I Live Now – Meg Rosoff

I don’t know what I was expecting from this book but this certainly wasn’t it. It is a whole different kind of dystopia, a whole different kind of romance, and a whole different kind of survival story than I am used to.

I feel like I don’t want to go with the format I have set myself for reviewing books. Instead, I’m going to paste in the Goodreads blurb and chat about it afterwards. See if it works, eh?

 

“Fifteen-year-old Daisy is sent from Manhattan to England to visit her aunt and cousins she’s never met: three boys near her age, and their little sister. Her aunt goes away on business soon after Daisy arrives. The next day bombs go off as London is attacked and occupied by an unnamed enemy.

As power fails, and systems fail, the farm becomes more isolated. Despite the war, it’s a kind of Eden, with no adults in charge and no rules, a place where Daisy’s uncanny bond with her cousins grows into something rare and extraordinary. But the war is everywhere, and Daisy and her cousins must lead each other into a world that is unknown in the scariest, most elemental way.”

 

I had no idea what this book was about when I first got into it. I picked it up for a couple of reasons – the first being that I recently had the privilege of hearing Meg Rosoff speak at an Arvon writing course I attended. She spoke so eloquently and with such originality about the relationship between your story and yourself that I just wanted to immediately read something she had written. The second reason is that I participated in a read-a-thon run by Kristina Horner for her patrons. One of our challenges was to read a book we knew absolutely nothing about. I picked How I Live Now at random out of Rosoff’s books, pretty much because it was the only paperback on the shelf and I don’t like reading hardbacks. No-one could accuse me of being picky with my literature choices.

I think I vaguely expected some kind of Divergent-esque dystopian world, but it was so much closer to the real world than I thought it would be. I am not going to lie – it took me a Very Long Time to get into the writing style, especially the dialogue. I spent a lot of the first few chapters going back to try and figure out who was talking with a lot of exasperated “Has she even HEARD of speech marks?” directed at anyone in my general vicinity. Eventually though, probably about a third of the way through the book, I got into it. It became second nature to read the book the way it had been written, rather than trying to force my own rules of what I thought a book should be like onto it. It started to make sense to me.

Daisy and Piper’s relationship was the thread holding the whole book together for me. I was instantly invested in their wellbeing and the way they would look out for each other. Throughout the whole thing, I was practically clenching my jaw just waiting for something back to happen to Piper, but I guess I have just watched too much Joss Whedon and Steven Moffat. I now expect the characters I love to die horrible deaths, but happily (spoiler alert) I was pleasantly surprised.

The narrative did not pull me along. I was perfectly happy to put the book down and pick it back up again whenever I had time. For me, it was not the most compelling of stories. But Rosoff obviously knows exactly what she’s doing and she helped me to explore what it would be like to suddenly be launched into a life of great instability and danger. I got to live the decisions that had to be made, and experience the horrors of war from my sofa, and I got to put the book down whenever I wanted to process what I had just read. 

I kind of didn’t really give a shit about Edmond. Like, I felt like he was a bit ‘it’s a metaphor’, and I just couldn’t bring myself to care about the relationship that developed between him and Daisy.

Having read this book, I feel about 20% more prepared for a zombie apocalypse, so that’s cool. I very much enjoyed reading it. It is a great book, and I would really like to read some more of her work.

Trigger warnings

Body horror, gore, incest. Why do all of the books I’ve read recently have incest?!

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