by Ella Whiddett | 2/12/2014
" So, back in June, I attended the Carnegie Medal 2011, which Patrick Ness rightfully won with Monsters of Men. And it was there that I found myself walking up a flight of stairs, sandwiched between Meg Rosoff and Marcus Sedgwick. It was kind of an other-worldly experience. But how did I recognise them, you might ask? Rosoff's stand-outish hair and Sedgwick's uncanny resembalance to a werewolf. Rosoff's book The Bride's Farewellwas a short-listed contender for the medal. I disliked that book. It made no sense. And I wasn't exactly stoked to read another by Rosoff. However, when Sedgwick turned to me and said 'Hi, I'm Marcus Sedgwick' and I said 'I know, I loved Floodland, it's a pleasure to meet you,' he then grinned at me and shook my head. Meg, seeing this, also introduced herself, all the whilst - we are walking up a very lengthy flight of stairs. She said 'I'm Meg Rosoff,'...and trying to keep with a pattern, I wanted to reply with 'I know, I hated The Bride's Farewell', but obviously I couldn't. So...I said, 'I know, I read The Bride's Farewell'. And lets just thank God that I was then pulled a few steps forward to talk to a publisher from Penguin House by my mentor. Because I would bet my book shelf that the next question she would have asked would have been 'And did you like it?'. And I could not have lied to a fellow writer.
I digress. But the thing is, I felt kind of rude after that encounter, and vowed that one day - I would give this appraised, loved and popular author another swing. I was thinking maybe in a few years. So when How I Live Now came to my door through a book-swap, I felt it was fate.
And I began to read.
This ook is actually Rosoff's first novel which I was quite surprised with. Her writing style throughout was very exact and never wavered. I find this a rare occurence amongst debut authors. At times, I felt as if I was thinking words. She wrote the book in such a way...that it was like the way my mind works. When you construct sentences or phrases in your heads - there is no grammar or speechmarks or precise paragraphs. There is just your thoughts and the 'and's that string them altogether. It made the read fluid and very likeable.
The idea of war was very clear in this book. It really sang out in the conditions that charatcers had to live through and the various scenes that unfolded. It was very WW2 in theming; if I hadn't known it was modern day I might actually think it was set in the 40s, but I guess that's the only place Rosoff could have got inspiration from aside from, you know, futuristic nuclear wars or something else equally unbelievable. So I'm happy that it was kind of old-school.
Her characters were solid. That's a definite. Whilst all weren't exactly likeable, ahem, Daisy, nobody can deny that they weren't deep and carefully layered. AUnt Penn's children, especially, were so unique and individual that they grew o nme instantly. Each was so distinctly their own person, but also banded with their siblings unbelievably well. Alas, not all was brilliant on the character front.
Daisy was a bit of a problem for me. She's fifteen year old from New York, so obviously a bit bratty, and is sour about her dad's relationship with 'Davina the devil' and therefore feels that turning to anorexia is the best option to guarantee attention from her neglective father. Well Daisy, that is where you would be wrong. Because he then proceeds to send her off to the English countryside. There was a certain irony in that, for me. She was overly selfish and annoying for the majority of the book, and whilst it was clear that she cared for her cousins, it didn't stop me from hating her. Nevertheless, it still gave her depth and with characters - you should either love or hate them. It's a sign of good writing, in my opinion.
Anorexia wasn't the only 'moral dilemma' we dealt with in this book though. No, incest was also present. And I think...in many ways it kind of ruined the romance between Edmond and Daisy. Couldn't hehave been adopted? Or a family friend? Or...something other than her cousin. It made the situation...well, icky. And what was even more alarming about the fact that they had sex on a regular basis was that the whole family knew - and did nothing about it. In fact, Isaac even went as far as to encourage Daisy. It was weird.
The 'love' between Daisy and Edmond, whilst not insta-love, thank God, was too down-played in the beginning. It made for a fantastic finish, but Daisy's, I would go as far as calling it, obsession with him wasn't really justified by Rosoff, and that kind of ruined the whole relationship between them. Oh, as well as the incest thing. Another minor problem with that plot-line was the way that Rosoff's writing was kind of fast. Whole days and nights spent with Edmond would be summed up in one sentence, whole sex scenes and kisses and conversations in another. It was too quick to make it realistic.
So, yeah. I'm glad this was sent to me from a swapper up in Manchester. I hope she enjoys the copy of Stolen: A letter to my captor I sent to her. And the next time I meet Rosoff, I won't be able to say 'I know, I loved The Bride's Farewell/ How I Live Now'...but I will be able to lure her into a conversation about the latter. "