Review: How I Live Now 1 Comment

Review: How I Live Now

I’m going to apologise right now and say that this is not going to be a super specific review. In lieu of a book I’ve read recently (there are none), I’ve decided to write about a book that I remember having a huge impact on me, even if in retrospect the plot is somewhat fuzzy. What I do remember, though, is that How I Live Now left me sobbing silently into my bedsheets, doubled over, wishing the world could reverse to the moment before I’d picked it up.

When my friend recommended the book to me, she gave me a stern look and said something along the lines of ‘approach this book with caution’. I scoffed, lay it on me, I figured. How I Live Now is written from the perspective of Daisy, a 15-year-old from New York, who is sent to stay with her English cousins in their country house. There are four cousins, an aunt, and a war. The aunt is called away from the children in order to try and help prevent the war, but it comes anyway. What is great about this book is that the fighting takes place in the periphery, so that readers don’t get bogged down in the possibilities or probabilities of it. This makes what happens all the more real.

Initially, I resisted the book. Meg Rosoff gives Daisy a strong voice: smart, self-absorbed and full of capitalisation to express anger (the latter of which is one of my pet peeves—though, to be honest, my 15-year-old diary holds many of the same traits). But Daisy persists in her tone, and the characters she becomes close to are full and tangible and not simply encapsulated in BIG LETTERS AND DESCRIPTIVE WORDS. Her voice grew on me and changed as she changed. I’d assumed that that was all. That, knowing me, my friend’s words of warning had to do with appreciating the voice. But that was only the beginning.


Suffice to say that there is love involved. There is a war. There is a practical girl named Daisy and her ethereal, beautiful, gentle 9-year-old cousin named Piper left to fend for themselves. There is a journey to reunite a family, though the ending never seems likely to be happy. But you hope. You hope because you know Daisy—you know she is as complex and strong as she is lost and vulnerable. You know that you’ve invested too much in these characters to leave them to their journey alone. You know that you’ve already shared in enough suffering, so you might as well toughen up and continue. Every time this book challenged me (and this was often), I figured that that was it. It couldn’t do much more that I wasn’t prepared for. But of course it did.

I remember finishing this book and gasping for air. I remember reaching for a notebook to write down my thoughts because there were too many and my mind would not function if I couldn’t let some of them out. I remember telling myself to let this book settle until I could read it again, because I was sure that a few years down the track I’d find a whole other world within it. So tomorrow I will pick up How I Live Now, and I’ll keep you posted on how good my memories were.



Cathy Tran (21)  is currently studying creative writing and linguistics at Melbourne Uni, which, most of the time, involves staring at children and wondering how they tick.
  • Amber

    Goddamn, Cathy Tran, this is my favourite book ever.

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