Ian McEwan is my favorite living author. So, while I try to be objective when reading him, I mostly just succumb to a giddy joy that comes when I read him (though that was not the case with The Cement Garden. Gah). I’ve been disappointed that his works haven’t seemed to align with my doctoral research, because that would have meant I could have written about him–but finally I found a book that just might go on my reading list.
The Child in Time takes place in the late 1980s, two years after Stephen Lewis’s three-year-old daughter disappears in a supermarket. In the intervening time, her absence consumes Stephen, a children’s book author, his relationships with others, and his marriage. Throughout the novel, we witness Stephen trying to come to terms with his identity, while reconciling his parents’ past, and the idea of eternity, childhood, and time itself, all while serving time on a government committee that will ultimately publish a handbook on childcare and raising in the UK (the references to Margaret Thatcher are deliciously sly, and the PM even makes a cameo–though whether it is Thatcher herself is less clear).
If you are a McEwan fan, you should definitely read this. There is a passage in the final chapter that speaks so eloquently about grief that it brought tears to my eyes. While I wasn’t a huge fan of the ending (the way it came about, at least), I did find the writing often very poignant in a way that I haven’t seen in some of McEwan’s other works. Overall, it is an odd, deeply moving book that left me sated and wanting to read more.