I narrowed it down to two books I wanted to read next and I chose How I Live Nowbecause I read a snippet of a review online and it mentioned ‘war’ and ‘forbidden love’, so I thought ‘great, it must be about World War Two!’ How wrong I was! On the second page our narrator, Elizabeth, although she prefers to be called Daisy, mentions how she can’t get any signal on her phone and my heart fell a teeny bit. I wanted a nostalgic war story; I didn’t know if I was in the mood for a futuristic war. I persevered anyway and I am so glad I did as this truly is a haunting read.
Fifteen year old Daisy leaves America, her Dad and her evil, pregnant stepmother and travels to an England on the brink of a war that might never happen. At the airport she is greeted by her fourteen year old cousin, Edmond, cigarette hanging out of his mouth and a certain air of mystery surrounding him. At their large country house, Daisy meets her rest of her family; workaholic Aunt Penn; the aloof and slightly older Osbert; Isaac who barely says a word to any human, choosing animals as a more worthwhile audience and Piper, the only girl who appears to be the living embodiment of a fairy/pixie. Soon after Daisy’s arrival Aunt Penn travels to Norway and whilst she is there war breaks out and all British borders are closed, leaving the five children abandoned and left to be self-sufficient as food shortages, rationing and all other hardships of war kick in. At first the children relish in the freedom of a life with no adults, responsibilities, communication to the outside world, and then the war lands on their doorstep, separating them and changing their lives forever.
How I Live Now is certainly a slow burner, to begin with I wasn’t sure if I would even like it, but that might have been because it wasn’t what I was expecting. Luckily for me it is set in a Britain in the not too distant future so it was far from futuristic and sci-fi-esque, so it was easy to relate to and believe in. There are some fantastical elements to the plot, mainly the cousins’ ability to read minds and connect telepathically, however this is cleverly written about and
enhances the plot, rather than seeming like a way of showing just how ‘crazy and futuristic’ life will be in a few years time. It is a tale of war, but it is also the tale of forbidden love between two cousins, a somewhat controversial topic choice, but it is subtly explored and therefore doesn’t seem to be merely a means of shocking the audience but more an integral part of the plot. It provides the means for Daisy to keep going and keep fighting to survive, both during the war and in the immediate aftermath of the war.
Overall I really enjoyed How I Live Now and devoured most of the 200 odd pages yesterday afternoon. It is a young adult book, but I certainly enjoyed it and found it an engaging and haunting read that has left me with a few questions, but not the annoying type of question you can often have after reading a book, more the ‘I wonder why…’ style of question. I am pleased that I kept on reading despite my initial reaction as it was certainly worth it and once again proves that sometimes you do need to persevere with a book as it can be slow burning and then when you least expect it you are sucked in to the narrative and the world of the characters and are somewhat reluctant to leave at the end.