Tuesday 8 October 2013

How I live now

Creature and I spent last Sunday re-reading 'How I Live Now' by Meg Rosoff in advance of going to see the film. This book has to be young adult fiction at its best, essentially because it removes adults from the equation and puts the characters in a situation where they are forced to make real decisions and face real consequences. Daisy is sent away by her father to stay with cousins in England, mainly so he can build a new life with his new wife and baby. Teenage resentment and rejection abounds, but she seems to settle in to the rural idyll quite quickly. We particularly liked the opening to chapter 6:

"I hardly saw Osbert that week because he went to school, unlike Isaac and Edmond and Piper, who were supposed to be Home Schooled, which as far as I could tell meant reading whatever books you happened to be interested in, and every once in a blue moon having Aunt Penn say Have you learned any geography? and them saying yes." (p.22)

and the whole of the first section before the war starts felt rather like an EO gathering, even the house seemed like some of the Youth Hostels we used to stay in, so the whole thing was a bit of a nostalgia trip really. Almost from nowhere Daisy and Edmond develop this overwhelming passionate love affair that is just as rapidly ripped apart by the arrival of enemy forces. Their relationship becomes somewhat symbolic of the weird situation they find themselves in, and Daisy sums it up quite well:

"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 any thing or anyone making us stop. There were no parents, no teachers, no schedules. There was nowhere to go and nothing to do that would remind us that this sort of thing didn't happen in the Real World. There no longer was any Real World." (p.45)

The whole war thing is very vague and sits in the background of the story, really it is just a means to create a surreal and dangerous situation that the characters are forced to navigate. We then follow Daisy and Piper and how they survive after their forced relocation and subsequent struggle to return home. The story becomes about the relationship between the two girls, one that forces Daisy out of her well of self-pity and gives her a reason to keep going. It contrasts interestingly with something like 'Hunger Games'; where Katniss was always strong, a fighter and a surviver, here we have Daisy who is a bit of a wet blanket and what Meg Rosoff gives us is her transformation into someone who is a fighter and a surviver. I did feel a little as if there was not enough real threat and danger in their return journey together, it was a bit too much of an afternoon walk through the english countryside, but what I do like is the fact that she doesn't tie the story up nice and neatly with a clichéd reunion scene. Not giving us all the information allows the reader to imagine what happened to Daisy in between. We are left a little in limbo, but then life is often like that. The story certainly has a lot of film potential, although it seems they have avoided the more challenging aspects of the Daisy/Edmond relationship. I am just hoping they have tackled the rest of the story accurately or Creature will be whispering annoyingly in my ear for the whole film.

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