Wednesday, April 2, 2008

How I Live Now, by Meg Rosoff

Rosoff, Meg (2004). How I Live Now. New York: Wendy Lamb, 194 pages.

Summary and Evaluation:
In order to escape her father and stepmother, Daisy leaves New York City for England where her aunt and four cousins live on a farm. War breaks out and Daisy and her cousins create a peaceful world on their farm until the war finally reaches them. Separated from Edmond, her new found love, and the happiness that surrounds her, Daisy must survive the war and find her way back to that happiness.

This story is surreal and subversive, disturbing yet magical. It engenders all of those things that in real life I would reject, but somehow in this idyllic farm life that Daisy has discovered, it seems only to make sense. All of the major characters defy what I think of as "normal" in everyday life. Daisy, an anorexic American, starves for her younger cousin Edmond, a freethinker, smoker, and underage driver. When the war separates them, Piper, who is innocence embodied, becomes Daisy's support. Piper understands all that is good in nature. Her revulsion to death and killing set her up as the opposite to the war. Piper isn't even able to kill fish for food.

Rosoff's writing contributes to the dreaminess of the story. Until the end there is a complete lack of quotation marks. I had to get a feel for when someone's speech ended and Daisy's narration resumed. She capitalized letters as she felt necessary, but sometimes left them out where they are traditionally used. It always brought my attention back to what she wanted to emphasize. Daisy exaggerates a lot. I imagine she didn't eat one thousand hazelnuts and she certainly wasn't away from the farm house as long as she said. This made it all feel more like a dream. At times the narration was just short and shocking. Daisy and Piper find their long, lost goat dying of starvation. After a moment of mourning, suddenly and without warning, Daisy shoots it in the head. It caught me so off guard that it is one of the most memorable scenes in the novel.

Booktalk Hook: I would do a booktalk pretending to be Piper, the innocent observer. I would explain that a newcomer, Daisy, has come to the farm, share Piper's feelings about her, and tell about Daisy's relationship with Edmond from Piper's point of view.

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