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The Child in Time (1987)

de Ian McEwan

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2,579445,783 (3.59)162
Fiction. Literature. HTML:A child's abduction sends a father reeling in this Whitbread Award-winning novel that explores time and loss with "narrative daring and imaginative genius" (Kirkus Reviews, starred review).

Stephen Lewis, a successful author of children's books, is on a routine trip to the supermarket with his three-year-old daughter. In a brief moment of distraction, she suddenly vanishes??and is irretrievably lost. From that moment, Lewis spirals into bereavement that effects his marriage, his psyche, and his relationship with time itself: "It was a wonder that there could be so much movement, so much purpose, all the time. He himself had none at all."

In The Child in Time, acclaimed author Ian McEwan "sets a story of domestic horror against a disorienting exploration in time" producing "a work of remarkable intellectual and political sophistication" that has been adapted into a PBS Masterpiece movie starring Benedict Cumberbatch (Kirkus Reviews, starred review).

"A beautifully rendered, very disturbing novel." ??Publishers Weekly… (més)
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Es mostren 1-5 de 44 (següent | mostra-les totes)
McEwan takes on a difficult topic in The Child in Time, loss of a child. A parent's nightmare. It poses the question what would you do if your child was abducted and you will likely never see them again? While they are probably still alive, they are all but dead to you. And what if the child was with you when they were abducted? How will your spouse react?

In this story the spouse reacts badly, blaming her husband for the loss of their child. She cannot accept the reality of never seeing their child again. For her withdrawal is the answer. She wants to be left alone and withdraws from any contact with anyone, especially the husband. She wants to live separately and in a remote location. In a sense she wants to get as far away from this situation as possible. Who can blame her? No one can walk in her shoes.

The husband is guilt stricken. His way of dealing with the loss is obsession. He will not stop looking everywhere for their child. Even after several years he thinks he's seen her in a group of school children and pursues a girl only to be admonished by the school's principal that he is mistaken and the young girl has been known for years as a child of the neighborhood, not his daughter. Everyone is sympathetic with his plight but his pursuit is increasingly seen more as pathetic. Divorce is what the wife wants and he complies. They remain friendly but apart.

In 2017 the BBC took on the task of creating a film version of this book. It stars Benedict Cumberbatch as the distraught husband and Kelly Macdonald as his wife. They are well suited for their roles and totally believable.

How this situation is resolved is somewhat predictable, but I won't spill the beans. How they took so long getting there is more problematic. My guess is many people for whom this solution is possible decide to go this route. I have no idea how common the solution is but my guess is more than a few take this way out. I recommend reading the book and seeing the movie. ( )
  Ed_Schneider | May 25, 2024 |
Reason Read: I read this because it worked for a TIOLI challenge on LT, it is also a 1001 book. It starts out with an abduction of a child and then it deals with the reactions to that abduction. This does not make this a unique story but the scope, themes, and exploration of time. Themes in this book not only include loss (Stephen Lewis lost his daughter, his marriage, his friends, his ability to write), but also parenthood, childhood, being the adult child of your parents and the parent to your child.
An interesting comment on this book by Nicholas Spice (London Review, 1987) discussed the political atmosphere of the novel as being Thatcherism. The prime minister in the book is 65 y/o with a voice pitched between tenor and alto, old fashioned ideas on child rearing and scorn for the railroad. There is reference to beggars being licensed (enterprise and profit public welfare), public service barely functions, schools being sold off, housing in short supply and police with guns. In the end the author turns away from the problems of society to absorption in private fulfillment. The book ends with hope but can a person ever recover from "losing" a child by a moment of distraction? This won the Whitbread Novel Award in 1987. I enjoyed it. ( )
  Kristelh | Aug 30, 2023 |
McEwan takes time describing key scenes such as when Steven lost Kate at the supermarket, Steven's visit to Julie's house, and Steven at the toy store choosing presents for Kate, wrapping them at home, and then realizing the futility of what he is doing. The writing is excellent. You could feel his frantic in the supermarket, and Steven's and Julie's sorrow. It was painful reading of the gift selection and wrapping. We are clear-eyed but not Steven. As usual, Ian likes to dwell in science subjects. Here, it is quantum physics. There's also something about beggars and the associated law that I don't understand. Personally, this novel is marred by the bizarre relationship between the Prime Minister and Charles. Why would the PM be so desperate to intrude into Steven's home, and reveal his interest in Charles to someone he doesn't really know? I guess there must be something I missed. ( )
  siok | Oct 4, 2021 |
"Only when you are grown up, perhaps only when you have children yourself, do you fully understand that your parents had a full and intricate existence before you were born."

'The Child in Time,' is set in 1980's London and society and this book seems pretty bleak. A fight between a Soviet and an American athlete at the recent Olympics has nearly escalated into nuclear war; although she is never named it is pretty obvious that Margaret Thatcher is Britain's Prime Minister and her Government has undertaken all sorts of cutbacks, home-owners have lost touch with their neighbours living separate lives whilst licensed beggars roam the streets of London.

The book opens with a harrowing event. Stephen Lewis, a well-known writer of children's books, one morning, decides to let his wife have a lie in and takes his 3-year-old daughter, Kate, with him to the supermarket, while waiting in the check-out line, she suddenly disappears - apparently kidnapped by a stranger. Despite extensive searches, posters and flyers she isn't found. Whilst Stephen roams the streets in search for Kate, his wife, Julie, stays at home, retreating further and further into her private grief. Lost in their own despair the couple start to drift apart; and as the weeks turn into months, their marriage falls apart. Julie moves to an isolated cottage in the countryside whilst Stephen spends his days watching television and daydreaming.

Through a series of flashbacks, including in to his own childhood, the reader cannot but help feeling a great deal of compassion for Stephen and his shifting emotions but in truth he isn't a particularly likeable character. Royalty payments from his books means that Stephen doesn't have to go out to work and virtually the only time that he leaves his flat is to attend Westminster committee meetings on the Official on Child Care where he spends his time daydreaming and barely participating. When one day after mistaking a little girl in a school-yard for Kate, Stephen realises that his life is spinning out of control, and he takes steps to create a new routine for himself.

Alongside Stephen's own struggles his friend Charles Darke is also slowing slipping into madness, unable to reconcile his childish nature and his adult responsibilities. This serves to mirror Stephen's own precarious mental state. Just as Kate's disappearance provides a terrible illustration of the loss of innocence so Charles's mental decline is a heavy-handed metaphor for Stephen's own inability to retrieve his youth. Stephen tries to help Charles's wife, Thelma, but is equally ineffectual there as well.

The absurd Committee meetings and Stephen's encounters with the Prime Minister add a little light relief to what is a largely depressing storyline. Throughout the book there are a series of set piece elements mainly centred around loss, some of which worked whereas some were less effective IMHO. I have read several of McEwan's books in the past and been generally disappointed with them but this one despite its rather depressing subject matter I found compulsive reading and hard to put down. ( )
  PilgrimJess | Oct 17, 2020 |
Stephen Lewis, un joven y renombrado autor de libros infantiles, vive en Londres con su mujer Julie y su hija Kate, de tres años, y participa con un escepticismo a la vez resignado y divertido en las reuniones de una comisión gubernamental sobre la educación de los niños. Los Lewis parecen componer la típica familia feliz, pero un día Stephen va al supermercado con la niña, la cual desaparece de improviso: éste es el dramático punto de partida de esta extraordinaria novela.

Stephen, un nombre de resonancias joycianas, se convierte en el protagonista de una pequeña Odisea contemporánea, basada ésta en una ausencia y una tentativa de retorno. El vacío doloroso que deja la desaparición de Kate no abre solamente la crisis entre Stephen y Julie, que reaccionan de modo distinto a este trauma, sino que pone también en marcha una reflexión que, partiendo del significado de ser padres y de ser hijos, obliga al adulto a repensar sus certezas nunca verificadas, sus hábitos mentales, sus comportamientos. En estas páginas, ambientadas en un futuro próximo, con la guerra nuclear al fondo, se lleva también a cabo una acerada sátira política de la sociedad inglesa, encorsetada por un thatcherismo asfixiante. Si el Tiempo representa uno de los temas centrales del libro («el tiempo futuro está contenido en el tiempo pasado», como dice un verso de Eliot recordado por Stephen), McEwan permanece bien anclado en la plasticidad del mundo físico.

Su mirada, experta en atrapar cualquier mínimo detalle significativo y el peso que tienen los objetos de la vida cotidiana, inspira una escritura nerviosa y exacta, que cumple las ambiciones de la novela y alcanza, como en las páginas finales, la intensidad de la poesía.

«Un logro extraordinario.» (Sheila MacLeod, Guardian)

«Ha engendrado de nuevo un hijo de su tiempo.» (New Statesman)

«Ian McEwan vuelve a destaparse de nuevo de forma espectacular.» (Alex Zysman)
  museosanalberto | May 29, 2020 |
Es mostren 1-5 de 44 (següent | mostra-les totes)
A Child in Time is rather a silly novel. It can take a while to notice this because its brilliance and extraordinary intensity have a hypnotic effect. Like Ernst and Magritte, McEwen has the Surrealist knack of making the world gleam with a light that never was on land or sea. He can also be extremely funny.
afegit per jburlinson | editaNew York Review of Books, Gabriele Annan (Web de pagament) (Feb 4, 1988)
 

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Fiction. Literature. HTML:A child's abduction sends a father reeling in this Whitbread Award-winning novel that explores time and loss with "narrative daring and imaginative genius" (Kirkus Reviews, starred review).

Stephen Lewis, a successful author of children's books, is on a routine trip to the supermarket with his three-year-old daughter. In a brief moment of distraction, she suddenly vanishes??and is irretrievably lost. From that moment, Lewis spirals into bereavement that effects his marriage, his psyche, and his relationship with time itself: "It was a wonder that there could be so much movement, so much purpose, all the time. He himself had none at all."

In The Child in Time, acclaimed author Ian McEwan "sets a story of domestic horror against a disorienting exploration in time" producing "a work of remarkable intellectual and political sophistication" that has been adapted into a PBS Masterpiece movie starring Benedict Cumberbatch (Kirkus Reviews, starred review).

"A beautifully rendered, very disturbing novel." ??Publishers Weekly

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