In the not too distant future, a one-hundred-year-old man called H sails the eastern coast of England with his godson. H recalls when he himself was sixteenhis godsons ageas they search for the site of Hs life-altering friendship with a boy named Finn. Finn lives alone on an isolated slip of land and follows no rules: he spends his days swimming, fishing, and collecting driftwood for his tiny beach hut. H, on the other hand, is an upper-class boarding school boy stifled by monotony and endless rules. They meet by chance on the beach, and H is immediately awed by (and jealous of) Finns way of life. They strike up an unlikely friendship but the gap between their lives becomes difficult to bridge, and before long the idyll that nurtured their relationship is shattered by heart-wrenching scandal.
Meg Rosoff was formerly a YA author, but her work transcends categorization and we are delighted to bring it to adult readers for the first time. What I Was is a timeless, enthralling story destined to become a classic.
Rule number one: Trust no one.
By the time we reached St. Oswald's, fog had completely smothered the coast. Even this far inland, the mist was impenetrable; our white headlights merely illuminated the fact that we couldn't see. Hunched over the wheel, father edged the car forward a few feet at a time. We might have driven off England and into the sea if not for a boy waving a torch in bored zigzags by the school entrance.
Father came to a halt in front of the main hall, set the brake, pulled my bag out of the boot, and turned to me in what he probably imagined was a soldierly manner. "Well," he said, "this is it."
This is what? I stared at the gloomy Victorian building and imagined those same words used by fathers sending their sons off into hopeless battle, up treacherous mountains, across the Russian steppes. They seemed particularly inappropriate here. All I could see was a depressed institution of secondary education ...
The treat of the book is Rosoff’s beautiful and mythically charged setting. Her lush prose paints the craggy rocks and crashing sea surrounding Finn’s fairy-tale-like shack and the bone-aching chill of the damp winds with unforgettable detail. However, her stellar prose makes the book all the more disappointing, as it sets the reader up to expect greatness through-and-through. While the three star rating indicates "average", Rosoff's talents are anything but, so if you're a newcomer, start with How I Live Now to experience the full breadth of her fiction.
(Reviewed by Lucia Silva).
Full Review (1032 words).
Useful to Know
If you read interviews and blogs about Meg Rosoff you may find references to a book called The Dark Ages. This was the title that she first gave to her story about H and Finn, but which she later renamed What I Was.
What I Was was published as a young adult title in the UK in summer 2007, but was positioned as a book for adults in the USA - an interesting situation for an ...
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