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How I Live Now Paperback – April 11, 2006
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Rosoff's story begins in modern day London, slightly in the future, and as its heroine has a 15-year-old Manhattanite called Daisy. She's picked up at the airport by Edmond, her English cousin, a boy in whose life she is destined to become intricately entwined. Daisy stays at her Aunt Penn's country farmhouse for the summer with Edmond and her other cousins. They spend some idyllic weeks together--often alone with Aunt Penn away travelling in Norway. Daisy's cousins seem to have an almost telepathic bond, and Daisy is mesmerized by Edmond and soon falls in love with him.
But their world changes forever when an unnamed aggressor invades England and begins a years-long occupation. Daisy and Edmond are separated when soldiers take over their home, and Daisy and Piper, her younger cousin, must travel to another place to work. Their experiences of occupation are never kind and Daisy's pain, living without Edmond, is tangible.
Rosoff's writing style is both brilliant and frustrating. Her descriptions are wonderful, as is her ability to portray the emotions of her characters. However, her long sentences and total lack of punctuation for dialogue can be exhausting. Her narrative is deeply engaging and yet a bit unbelievable. The end of the book is dramatic, but too sudden. The book has a raw, unfinished feel about it, yet that somehow adds to the experience of reading it. (Age 14 and over) --John McLay --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
Briefly, the plot:
Daisy, our narrator, is not a very admirable character when the novel begins. Sent to rural England to live with her deceased mother's family, Daisy is at first shocked at the conditions of life with her aunt's large family.
Soon after Daisy arrives, her aunt must go on an emergency trip to help with peace negotiations, leaving her children and Daisy alone. Thus begins an idyllic summer - the group at the farm is aware a military force has taken over the country, but specifics are hard to come by, and life goes on as normal in their corner of the world, so by and large they ignore the crisis. With no telephone, no internet, no television or radio, the kids come to enjoy their isolation and Daisy begins a sexual relationship with her cousin Edmond.
The world won't stay away forever, though. Eventually military forces arrive and take the children to allegedly "safe" places, separating the boys and the girls.
Daisy's devastation at losing contact with Edmond fades quickly once she realizes that the war, if that is indeed what it is, has closed in around her and presents a real, personal threat.
Daisy and her young cousin Piper eventually make their way back home, and Daisy leaves the country to return to America through her father's subterfuge. But what she has seen has scarred her forever, and draws her back to the rural English farm.
We also see how quickly war turns children into adults. By novel's end, whiny, spoiled Daisy has become an adult who makes mature decisions. The vivid, live-life-out-loud Edmond has witnessed intense atrocities and drawn into himself like a shell-shocked vet from World War I. There's no time for fantasies and dreams anymore, there's only real life and the imperative to get on with it.
Where it shines:
Despite its twists and turns, the plot takes a back seat in How I Live Now. What struck me, and what has stayed with me, are the details of life during one of our new-fangled post-9/11 wars. Surely this is what that life would be like - No reliable means of contact with the outside world, no trustworthy sources of information, not even knowing who the "enemy" is. What do they believe in? Why are they doing, umm, whatever it is they're doing? Does it matter if the uniformed man walking along the road is one of "us" or one of "them"? Is it safe to let him see you, no matter which side he's on? Not being able to know these things didn't disturb the characters nearly as much as it disturbed me.
How I Live Now left me shaken; I keep trying to tell friends the story so I can illustrate a point with it: How do we know what we know? If we hear a radio address by George Bush, we take it for granted that it is George Bush himself delivering it, despite the fact that numerous stand-up comedians can sound just like him. Or maybe it is him, but someone is holding a gun to his head. If we see him on television speaking, again we take it for granted that it's really our president, when we ought to know by now that there are body doubles aplenty.
I'm not implying that the U.S. has been taken over by some outside element that is either impersonating President Bush or forcing him to act according to their dictates, but if they were, how would we know?
That's what I'm left with after reading How I Live Now.
Daisy is bleak and funny. Daisy's cousins are homeschooled, self-sufficient and psychic, and they get on with the business of survival. There is love and sex, but nothing graphic, and Daisy wrestles with the morality of what she's doing, which I think is a refreshing aspect to bring to a YA book.
As a work of fiction, this book is beautifully characterized, with an odd, beautiful family at its center. Even in hard wartime conditions, the humanity of the characters remains. Soldiers kill out of fear, not hatred. Mothers grieve, fathers try to fix things, there are kind soldiers who treasure the innocence of children rather than brutalizing it. There are good dogs. None of it is as treacle as I make it sound. It's a difficult story and Daisy, the narrating character, is one tough, messed-up girl. But like Children of Men, this book offers recognizable humanity, and some hope.
I'm not sure how 12 year-old would respond to a story this bleak, but I love it, all my kids love it (17 and up) and I recommend it highly.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
While I couldn't get past the relationship that Daisy and Edmond had the book had me fascinated.Read more