What I’m Reading: HOW I LIVE NOW by Meg Rosoff

I’d heard lots of amazing things about this book. It was about time I picked it up.

Summary from the inside jacket:

This is a story about love. It’s also a story about hate, which is why I left New York in the first place. You don’t fly halfway across the world to live with a bunch of people you never met, just for a laugh.

I guess if I’d known where it was all going to lead, I might have thought twice about stepping onto that plane. I might have worried a little more about Edmond being my cousin. And me being fifteen. But I didn’t. And in the end, those things didn’t matter as much as you think they would. In the end, the world has bigger things to worry about than us.

While this inside jacket is captivating, it does little to sum up the plot line, so I’ll do so here. Daisy is fifteen. She flies off to England to stay with her cousins in the remote countryside. While she is there and her aunt is traveling, a war breaks out. The story follows the children as they are left to fend for themselves amongst a crumbling society.

The books is told in first person, from Daisy’s point of view. Her narration rambles and is very stream-of-consciousness-like and the sentences seem to go on and on much like this one, but there is something so magical in the way that Rosoff does it, that as a reader you’re just sort of like, Wow, I think I might actually dig this. It does take some getting used to though. There are no dialog tags and every thought just sort of flows into the next. I was trying to decide, when I first picked this book up, if I thought Rosoff’s style of writing was beautiful or annoying. It took me only twenty pages to decide. It’s beautiful. And amazing. I read this one line and knew, without a doubt, that I was going to love the book and every single word that followed:

Then Edmond and Piper cam and lay down on the blanket, one on either side of me with Piper holding my hand as usual and Isaac still standing in the water looking peaceful and they started arguing about what flies trout liked best in a quiet lazy sort of way, and Edmond blew smoke rings in the air and I closed my eyes and wished they were mine.

Is it possible to fall in love with a book from just one line? It must be, because it happened to me with that one.

Getting back on topic… The story takes place today, or maybe in a very near future, but because the war unfolds in such a familiar setting, the story itself becomes terribly disturbing. At first the children thought of it as an adventure, being stranded without parents. Things were originally fun, and maybe just a tad inconvenient. They were so far removed from the bombings that began the war, that the threat didn’t seem real and sometimes Daisy even feels guilty about enjoying her life. I enjoyed this. It felt realistic. Of course, that all light-hearted adventure business changed rather quickly. As things go from inconvenient, to suspicious, to full on frightening, the book because an experience you can’t put down. By the time you reach the end, you feel like Daisy, so changed by the whole affair that you can barely remember the person you were as you started reading the novel. Just as Daisy discovers that so much can change so quickly and one must learn what they value in life and what they hold dear, the reader will find themselves asking similar questions.

Another amazing thing about this story is that it touches on about a hundred different topics but somehow does it in a way that doesn’t overwhelm you. It’s a story about love and hate and anorexia and incest and war and perseverance and recovery and death and HOPE. The ending was so moving I literally had to shoo my husband away so I could frantically cling to the book and read those last few pages in peaceful solitude.

Gosh, I’m still trying to recover from this experience. In a good way. If you haven’t read this book, you should. Unless of course the idea of cousins being sexually involved makes you squeamish. In that case, it might not be for you. But even still, that’s just a fraction of this powerful story and you should still give it a try. Right now.

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