Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Meg Rosoff : HOW I LIVE NOW

HOW I LIVE NOW is a novel written by american author Meg Rosoff. It became such a best-seller that this year we had the privilege to see the film adaptation of this book in cinemas.

I have not heard about this book before I knew about the movie. As mentioned in the film review I even didn't know that it was an adaptation of a book. As soon as I found out, that there is a book, I was eager to have it. Ordered and paid for it on Amazon, it got delivered within days of its purchase. But it's been sitting on  my book shelf until Monday this week, when I decided that it's time to see if the book is better than the movie or other way round.

Now the general rule usually applies and the book always wins. But will this be the case of 'How I live now' ? The people who read it before me, loved it. 

"Magical and utterly faultless." Mark Haddon 

"Thoroughly original … a book for all ages.. A daring, wise, and sensitive look at the complexities of being young in a world teetering on chaos. " People

First impressions. Quite a thin book. I was expecting it to be bigger. At least 350 pages. Instead I have only 194 to go through. It will be easy and quick to read. Beautiful cover though. Black with pink and orange flowers and flying white butterflies. No sign of what story this book holds. Actually, if you would judge the book by its cover, you would think that it is another romantic story about young love. 

And  you couldn't be more wrong. Yes, it is a love story. But that's not all this book is about. It's about family and the strong hold between its members. It's about love. It's about war. Yes, you heard me right! It's about war and the things which comes  when the world you knew so well is in chaos. It tells us how people react in the new-found unusual circumstances. We always thought that it could never happen to us and now we are reading a story just about that. How will people react? What will happen to us all? How we will survive? Yes, this book is about the one survival instinct which leads you thought circumstances and saves your life on many occasions. 

Written from the point of fifteen-year-old girl Daisy, who just been ultimately betrayed by her father and shipped off to England to live with her deceased mother's family. Here Daisy finally finds her home and people who she can really open up to. Family who she loves and will do anything for them. Firstly it's all happy fun and games for the members of this unique family with unique skills, but when the war begins and England becomes occupied by terrorists, they have to learn to survive and find their way back to each other. 

This novel is written in a form of Daisy's diary. She talks us through the story and her feelings. Her story-telling is engaging. Witty. Smart. A very relatable. An insight to 15-year-old girl's mind. And this girl has some serious issues. 

Daisy is an anorexic who's eating disorder is kind of a coping mechanism. She hates her father's girlfriend and calls her 'Evil Stepmother'. It doesn't help that her father is a pussy who's wife has him wrapped around her small finger. But Daisy is a fighter and as a punishment she is shipped to England. I love the fact that she is so desperate for any signs of being loved. And when she is given the love she so much craves, she can return in the same way. 

Edmond. Well what can I say about Edmond. He is very different from the guy I got to know it the film. Actually this Edmond is kind of a combo of Isaac and Edmond from the film adaptation of this book. He is very insightful. Very sensitive. But caring and he loves his little family very much. He would do anything for them. 

Now his twin Isaac is somebody I don't know from the film. This Isaac is an introvert who talks to animals. Kind of an 'Animal Whisperer'. Although he doesn't say much (actually the only dialogue in the whole book is near the end), you know that you can rely on him. He has this wisdom of knowing where you are, what is going on and how you feeling. 

But the star of the story for me is 9-year-old Piper. This girl is a some kinda of living version of a fairy. For her age, she is the smartest character I've ever met in the book. She is beautiful, kind, funny, playful and sensitive. And she has this skill to overcome anything which is thrown at her. And by only looking at you when you don't know what you want to say, she gets you. She is a lot less annoying and a lot less chattier than the Piper in the film. 

This story is very unique. I haven't read a book which would touched upon the possibility of war between the governments around the world and terrorists. I found it very real. Although at some places it wasn't pleasant to read, you knew that this is how it would be in reality. This is how people would behave. And it's a pretty scary thought. But I loved how the girls coped with their situation. They fought to stay alive. They went (walked) through all nine rings of hell of Dante's Inferno and survived. And surprisingly didn't lost themselves in the process. It made them stronger.  One quote especially stuck to my mind because it was a very strong message about the war!


"It was a paradise. Dead things everywhere and when the stink hit you it was like nothing you ever smelled before and when you hear people say something smells like death trust them because that's the only way to describe what it smells like, putrid and rotting and so foul your stomach tries to vault out through your throat and if your brain has any sense it wants to jump out of your skull and runaway as fast as possible with or without the rest of you so it doesn't ever have to find out what's making that smell." 


The writing was intense. Funny. Smart. The author used long sentences which was a sign of good writing. This is how a 15-year-old girl would write in her diary

The only problem I have with this story is the relationship between Daisy and Edmond. Ok, don't get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with falling in love. There is nothing wrong to find your soulmate so young, but… FOR GOD'S SAKE!! Not only is Edmond a year younger and half foot shorter than Daisy (yes, I have certain expectations for the guy I will be dating.. thank god Chris Pine ticks all categories ;-) ), he can read Daisy's mind (?!?! hello??!), but most importantly HE IS HER COUSIN!!!! Seriously, when it became normal again to fall in love with members of your family? Am I being prude or is incest the new thing??

Also, this book is set in fairly normal background. We are stuck in the middle of war, but why the hell this family has these special powers? I think I would more enjoy this book if the special skills would be left out. I do love a good fantasy or sci-fi novel, but I do not think that it was appropriate in this story. 

Now the conclusion. I found this novel very unique. It was very witty, sarcastic and written with a style which is right up my street. But I must say that I have started to enjoy it only 60% in. I found very wrong that it was ok to fall in love with your cousin (why not make Aunt Pegg only a very good friend and then they wouldn't be related and the story would be more believable?). And sometimes I had troubles to concentrate while reading it as I found it a little bit boring. But then it picked up and the author saved the story with it's dark side. 

All in all, and I hate to say this, I prefer the film version of this story. I am sorry Ms Rosoff, but I think that Kevin Macdonald breathed a new life into your story and saved it. 

Trailer of Kevin Macdonald's "HOW I LIVE NOW"

Quotes from the book which I noted in my quotes diary:

“I don't get nearly enough credit in life for the things I manage not to say.”

“I was dying, of course, but then we all are. Every day, in perfect increments, I was dying of loss.
The only help for my condition, then as now, is that I refused to let go of what I loved. I wrote everything down, at first in choppy fragments; a sentence here, a few words there, it was the most I could handle at the time. Later I wrote more, my grief muffled but not eased by the passage of time.When I go back over my writing now I can barely read it. The happiness is the worst. Some days I can't bring myself to remember. But I will not relinquish a single detail of the past. What remains of my life depends on what happened six years ago.
In my brain, in my limbs, in my dreams, it is still happening.”

“The things that break your heart when you think there`s nothing left to break”

“Things Happen and once they start happening you pretty much just to hold on for dear life and see where they drop you when they stop.”

“If you haven't been in a war and are wondering how long it takes to get used to losing everything you think you need or love, I can tell you the answer is no time at all.” 

“Every war has turning points and every person too.” 

“If there was ever a more perfect day in the history of time it isn't one I've heard about.”

“The real truth is that the war didn't have much to do with it except that it provided a perfect limbo in which two people who were too young and too related could start kissing without anything or anyone making us stop.”

“Staying alive was what we did to pass the time.” 

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