I was drawn in to How I Live Now, by Meg Rosoff, on the library bookshelves by its Penguin Classics style cover (from the Penguin Celebrations series in 2008) and the intriguing blurb. One thing I do like about these vintage-style covers is the lack of cover art meaning that I was left to draw my own conclusions on what the book would be about… and I got that completely wrong! (I thought it was a Second World War book, when in reality it’s a dystopian novel about the Third World War)
I really liked this book – I found the backstory of Daisy’s recovery from an eating disorder to be very subtle, and hugely poignant: ‘somewhere along the line I’d lost the will not to eat’ – which also reminds me of something a friend of mine said about their own recovery. I thought that the storyline was almost too subtle, however – I don’t know if people who hadn’t seen people go through it would have got it.
The narrative was similar to Never Let Me Go in that the full story is revealed only gradually, and even at the end of the book the reader is in the dark as to who is at war with whom. The ending isn’t particular happy and gives a damning verdict on war – I’d be interested to find out if this was consciously written as an anti-war novel.
This quotation about how the war started did make me laugh: “When I heard how it happened I was pretty impressed by the cleverness of the guys who planned it, who as far as I understood basically waited for most of the British Army to be lured into crises on the other side of the world and then walked in and cut off all the transport and communications and stuff so basically they were DEFENDING Britain against its own returning armed forces rather than attacking it.” This scenario just struck me as so likely that I found it quite entertaining. (Although of course not really entertaining at all, at the same time!)
I also loved Daisy’s descriptions of Britain - she goes from being quite the cynical New Yorker to loving everything from ‘Ye Olde English version of a 7-Eleven, which for some reason was also a post office and a drugstore and sold newspapers out front if all else failed’ to public footpaths, which are described as ‘nice and civilised.’ For this reason I think the book would be perfect for expats of Anglophiles!
Five out of five stars.