How I Live Now
By Meg Rosoff
Being a winner of the Guardian Fiction Prize, I was, to say the least, a little surprised at how underwhelmed I was by this novel.
The reader follows 15 year old Elizabeth, AKA Daisy, on her journey from New York to the depths of the countryside in England. The reason? She’s anorexic with a hatred for her stepmother and her unborn sister so her father unburdens himself and plonks this messed-up teen on her cousins and busy aunt.
The real journey however, turns out to be her relationship with her cousins during the (a) war. Now, I write ‘a’ in brackets because I was confused right from the start. Daisy tells of the war as if it the Second World War but then speaks of not getting a mobile phone connection and not being able to send emails. In other parts of the book she also mentions terrorism. No date is ever mentioned – I’m so confused. My mum read it and couldn’t enlighten me either. I feel like I’ve missed something. I feel as if I should read it again, but I really don’t want to.
Personally, I was instantly irritated with the voice of the fifteen year old (and I say ‘personally’ because The Mail on Sunday and author Mark Haddon say the voice is original and faultless, respectively). I felt sometimes she sounded about five years old and other times much older – possibly beyond her years. Alongside the mixed references of the war and contemporary media and the strange, old-style names similar to something you’d find in the Famous Five nothing sat comfortably with me. Even if I took into account her mental instability I couldn’t get my head around it.
I enjoyed the second half of the book more because we see Daisy on a perilous mission to find her cousins, so you do wonder whether she will live long enough to actually reach her destination and complete her search.
There are funny moments of dialogue and I did feel a twinge of emotion towards the end, but it soon passed. This book was easy to read yet complicated. What I mean is, you can read it quickly – which is a good thing because it will leave you feeling like a second read is a must just to see what you missed. I will hopefully be enlightened and a little less confused if I dare to venture into this book again.
Maybe I should think about it like a Francis Bacon painting: it isn’t supposed to be comfortable or easy. Yet, it wasn’t the topic which I found challenging it was the voice, style and lack of clarity as to what war was going on. Please read it, and offer me your views on what I have missed. I don’t usually struggle so much with any of the arts and I’m finding it frustrating.