Killing Fields

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Times Online - Sunday Times

Sunday Times Children's Book of the Week

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

Rossoff achieves a remarkable feat. Without wavering from the lightness and irony of Daisy?s narrative tone, she recounts a story of intense, underage first love, and of a war that turns England?s country lanes into killing fields. NICOLETTE JONE

The more I reflect on my own reading of this novel, the more I am amazed by the critical euphoria generated by its publication. "Daisy has a sassy and cynical voice, and is determined to be cool," observes Jones. This is true of the start of the book, but the voice changes as the book proceeds, and it shouldn't, because it purports to be a story told in retrospect. The inclusion of the first chapter is an error because its closing 'And so here's what happened' means that the rest of the book should be narrated in a consistent voice. But there's no way a reader can square "The air was suffocating, charged, the hungry plants sucking at the earth with their ferocious appetites" from p173, with the voice at the start of the novel. In her review, Jones describes Edmond's family as 'unconventional', 'eccentric'. Edmond is unconvincing as a character, a bizarrely anachronistic Brideshead type who could only exist in dreamy romantic reveries of the female mind. Indeed, the 'love' affair reads like the sort of erotic female fantasy that might go on behind closed eyes on a summer's afternoon while sunbathing on the beach. Worse still, the violence - the "war that turns England?s country lanes into killing fields" as Jones's review sees it - is a queasy-inducing continuation of this romantic fantasy, in which death and injury become merely decorative. "And so, after all this time, we're together, Edmond and I." This sentence, on p185, the book's penultimate page, says it all really, with its doleful 4-beat cadence. How I Live Now is mawkish romantic fiction that commandeers the contemporary fear of terrorism and war to make itself appear something zeitgeisty and fresh.

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This page contains a single entry by achuka published on August 1, 2004 9:53 AM.

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