How I Live Now

Review
Possibly one of the most talked about books of the year, Meg Rosoff’s novel for young adults is the winner of the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize 2004. Heralded by some as the next best adult crossover novel since Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, who himself has given the book a thunderously good quote, this author’s debut is undoubtedly stylish, readable and fascinating.
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

Activities

Post at least three entries over the course of the next three weeks.

Your writing is to be formal and highly sophisticated, so do not ignore grammatical conventions, spelling intricacies or methods of punctuation.

  1. What are the big ideas being explored by the author?  What are the two major themes of your text and how does the author incorporate them into the story?  Which character(s) highlight these big ideas or themes and in what ways.  Choose one or two.
  2. Choose one major incident from the novel and explain what happens for those who have not read the text.
  3. Now visit another page and comment on one of the other texts either by clarifying what is written or commenting on what has been said.  Try to ask some challenging questions about the text, not simply asking about plot or the story line.

5 thoughts on “How I Live Now

  1. Meg Rosoff’s novel, How I Live Now, explores themes of love, survival, and the ways in which tragedy can change people irrevocably. Set during a World War in the 21st century, the book deals with family relationships and how parents can influence the lives of their children. Rosoff explores the power of parental love, and its positive and negative aspects, throughout the novel.

    The consequences of life without parental support are explored in ‘How I Live Now’. When Aunt Penn leaves for Oslo, the children are left abandoned without adult care. However, although the children do not have an adult to look after them, they each develop a sense of independence and self reliance, and become closer as a family. Piper, the youngest sibling, is most severely affected by the absence of Aunt Penn, and adopts Daisy as a ‘mother figure’. Daisy and Piper’s survival of the war is a reflection on their strong and supportive relationship. Daisy “never imagined how much [she] could love someone like Piper”, with her “big eyes” and “pure soul”. Even so, there were negative outcomes associated with the departure of Aunt Penn. The absence of a parental figure allowed an illicit relationship to develop between two cousins.

    It is probable that the incestuous relationship between Daisy and Edmond may not have developed so rapidly with the presence of Aunt Penn. Incest and under-aged sex, involved in Daisy and Edmond’s relationship, were illegal and unsuitable activities engaged in by the two. The feeling Daisy “loved best in the world” was that of “starving, starving, starving for Edmond”, suggesting that their relationship was unhealthy. It could be said that their relationship began due to the absence of a parent; two children who began a relationship as they were searching for the love and support they lacked.

    Family relationships are a prominent theme explored throughout ‘How I Live Now’. The novel looks at this through war; and a family who is torn apart, then brought back together, by the power of love. Rosoff suggests how true love is “something violent, mysterious and wonderful”.

  2. Daisy’s emotional reunion with her cousins is a poignant and moving conclusion to Meg Rosoff’s, ‘How I Live Now’. This incident is one of the most important scenes in the novel, suggesting the ways in which love and war can be synonymous, tearing apart and bringing people together. The setting of war could infact be an analogy for themes of personal conflict and love.

    Six years after last seeing Edmond, Daisy is reunited with her first love, however is greeted unexpectedly. To Edmond, Daisy “was still thousand of miles away” and their “borders were still closed”. Their cold and somewhat gauche reunion is unlike the intense relationship they shared during the war, suggesting the way in which tough times and hardship can make people closer, and then tear them apart. The remote nature of war appears to have a similarity to Edmond and Daisy’s distant encounter. And, although the War has physically ended, the long term effects of war are unforgettable. She knew that Edmond “[needed] peace and [needed] to be loved” in order to recover from the mental and physical effects of war. Daisy’s offer to care and look after Edmond brought them closer, concluding with them living together in their farmhouse. The incidents Daisy experienced made her realise the number of “strange alliances forged in war”, and the ways these relationships can help you to survive.

    Rosoff’s conclusion to “How I Live Now” explores how love and war are often synonymous, particularly in the ways in which relationships are formed, broken and strengthened. Daisy’s reunion with Piper, Isaac and Edmond was a touching and emotional close to a tale of survival, love personal conflict and change.

  3. The big ideas explored in Meg Rosoff’s novel, “How I Live Now”, are war, terrorism and survival, relationships, in particular young love, independence, friendship, change and separation you’re your family and those you love. The themes of eating disorders and telepathy are also explored to a lesser degree. The book is written from the head of the main character, Daisy, a fifteen year old girl who moves to live with her cousins in England before a war breaks out. The book deals with isolation and the solitude that comes from extreme circumstance; it explores how these situations create friendships and develop identity.

    Daisy’s introduction to the book does not tell the reader much about her as a person, as she doesn’t seem to know much about her identity and values. This is because she has never been independent in her life in New York because she had such a strong friendship with her best friend Leah. As part of her change in location and environment, the “extreme time in history”, and the unbelievably strong connections she makes with her cousins who at first were “strangers” to her, Daisy begins a belated development in her individuality.

    As a reader you first start to notice the change when Daisy begins to think of her cousins as her new family. She stops referring to her old life in New York so much and it is obvious that she begins to develop independence and more of an identity. Her isolation in relation to familiarity and also geographically is the main reason that she becomes more self dependant, although there are times throughout the book when she relies heavily on emotive support from Edmond.

    Daisy gives an impression that she was socially closed off in her life in New York because she never mentions other friends that she had or much about her social situations at all, and the reader can see that this changes drastically after war has broken out. She becomes much more able to make friends with the soldiers, the McEvoy family and Elena and she also forms closer family bonds to her cousins and family than she had in her life in New York. It seems that her capacity to love increases.

    Daisy’s identity is a significant issue that is explored throughout the book and it is developed by her newfound independence and relationships. There are a variety of relationships formed throughout the book because Daisy is in a completely new and unfamiliar environment and situation, as are all the characters in the book.

  4. The danger really begins for Daisy and her family when Joe gets shot. After this “all hell broke loose”. It was not only the start of vigilante groups who went house to house killing “anyone they didn’t like the look of”, but also the cause of the grief and realisation that “this is a war”. It also causes Piper and Daisy to be relocated to a safer place and be even more unsure of how to be reunited with their loved ones.
    Joe was “one of the guys” who worked with Daisy when she harvested fruit and vegetables and not long after she was moved away from Edmond, Isaac and Osbert to live with the McEvoy family and Piper. As Daisy recognises, Joe fancied her and tried to get her attention with “stupid jokes” and “asking totally duh questions”. The feeling wasn’t mutual but Joe wasn’t good at picking up on her “rejection vibes”.
    When Major McEvoy, Piper and Daisy were driving home through checkpoints one night, Joe “suddenly took it into his head” to yell obscenities at the enemy soldiers who were guarding the checkpoint. When Major McEvoy told him to sit down, he ignores him and “kept shouting stuff about Johnny Foreigner being an Effing Bastard and worse”. The description of what happens when the “army guy” pulls the trigger is not as graphic as perhaps Rosoff’s later description of dead bodies; however it is still vividly expressed. The shock made Daisy retch and time seemed to slow down.
    What happens after Joe’s death has a great affect on the McEvoy family whom Daisy has come to love and care for. Major McEvoy, when seeing that Joe is still “gurgling and trying to move the arm that wasn’t caught under his body”, climbs out of the vehicle and “about a hundred shots from a machine gun” hit him and Joe making them “a hundred per cent dead”.
    This pivotal point of “How I Live Now” reinforces the themes of war and survival. The consequential scenes depict the anguish, loss and despair of the family. It shows that, in war, it takes “no time at all” to get used to losing everything you think you need or that you love.

  5. “How I live now” sounds like a gripping and enthralling novel about survival and relationships. Daisy sounds like a mentally strong character however maybe socially closed off. The novel describes what she does through and the transitions she must undergo in her life. The plot sounds interesting especially as the novel is based around a fictional war which is based in the future of today.

    Meg Rosoff seems to have strong characters in the novel and were maybe based or inspired by certain people in her life like most authors do in their novels. This novel may be so engrossing as the relationships in the novel are very strong between family and friends. However some relationships are torn apart and the novel also explores how characters cope without support from one another.

    Does the novel explore many contrasts between characters or places which either Daisy or other main characters experience? Daisy’s identity seems weak however how does it develop in the book? What cause her to change who she is? Does the unfamiliar environment change anything in either Daisy or the other main characters (cousins)? The title “How I live now” asks the question, is Daisy happy with the way her life is now or is she simply reflecting on the events which took place that shaped her life (good/bad)?

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