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The Child in Time [Hardcover]

4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Ian McEwan never disappoints. I've read "Enduring Love" and "The Comfort of Strangers" and they're both excellent. In his 1987 Whitbread Prize winning novel "The Child In Time", McEwan tunnels deep into the subconscious to deliver an outstanding study of interiors that positively glows and radiates with poignance and compassion. There is the inevitable social commentary on power, hypocrisy and corruption but none of the anger and vitriolic you might expect. Using the subject of a child gone missing in a supermarket as its starting point, the novel snakes its way around with dramatic twists and turns nobody could have anticipated - a typically McEwan trait - that continually shatters the reader's evolving preconception of what the novel is all about. One moment you're astral travelling with Stephen as he struggles manfully with his private grief while sitting absentmindedly in parliamentary subcommittee meetings on children's education, the next you're in a nasty car accident and a stroll down memory lane that proves to be pivotal in drawing all the loose ends together. The confession Stephen's mother makes to him will strike you like a lightning rod. It comes full circle, suggesting the power of the subconscious in shaping the reality we perceive as fixed or unchanging when it hangs on a thread. McEwan's command of his craft is none more evident than in suddenly letting Stephen's almost indifferent friendship with Charles take centrestage in the last third of the novel, with devastating effect but for a purpose, not as a gimmick but because it's highly explanatory. Read more ›
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Ian McEwan, THE CHILD IN TIME (Penguin, 1987)

Something happened to a number of bang-up in-for-the-kill horror writers in the early to mid eighties. I'm still trying to figure out what. Patrick McGrath, who'd given the world some of its most wonderfully gut-wrenching tales in _Blood and Water_, started writing slick, witty novels that came to just this side of horror. Clive Barker started writing fantasy. Anne Rivers Siddons gave us one of the definitive modern haunted house novels and then started churning out "women's novels."

And then we have Ian McEwan.

McEwan's first novel, _The Cement Garden_, is one of the most unpredictably horrific novels in the last half-century. It's a thing of absolute beauty, comparable to Koja's _The Cipher_, Deveraux's _Deadweight,_ and a handful of other horror novels that push the envelope so far that the reader will have second thoughts about ever reading another novel by the author. Then McEwan dropped out of sight for a while, released a second novel I haven't been able to track down (so this transformation may be earlier than I suspect), and finally got major-label recognition with this, his third full-length offering.

The Child in Time is the story of a couple whose daughter is abducted in broad daylight in a crowded supermarket. The two of them react differently to the disappearance as time goes on with no ransom note, and the inevitable breakup occurs. We phase in right there, not long after the breakup, and follow the husband, Stephen, as he tries to put his life back together while simultaneously watching his best friend come apart.

I want to savage this book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Powerful, Moving March 13 2002
"The Child in Time" is my first Ian McEwan work, although I was aware that he studied at Malcolm Bradbury's creative writing program at the University of East Anglia, as did Kazuo Ishiguro, of "The Remains of the Day" fame.
McEwan is a subtly brilliant writer with amazing psychological understanding and insight. With equal ease, he navigates the political landscapes of family; personal life; commercial London, and Thatcher's 1980's Whitehall.
The tribulations of his friend, publisher Charles Darke in the treehouse in rural Suffolk is altogether telling and allegorical in itself. The stark tragedy of losing his child Kate, brings the neccesary focus needed to capture the reader's attention for the duration of the novel.
Heartfelt, and very well worth the read.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing Nov. 29 2000
Having read and enjoyed nearly all of McEwan's work, I was very disappointed with The Child In Time, a novel which felt formulistic and paint-by-the-numbers. The characters are bland and uninteresting, and in that we don't care about the characters we're never really drawn into the novel.
The plot revolves around Stephen Lewis, an author of children's' books who takes his 3-year old daughter to a supermarket where she is kidnapped. The events which follow concern Lewis' reflection on his life, on time, and on his relationship with his wife.
A premise full of promise for McEwan's signature dark insight, but one which in my opinion never really pans out. Read instead McEwan's excellent Black Dogs or The Comfort of Strangers.
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