As an emerging twentieth and twenty-first century scholar, it feels pretty good to say I’ve “conquered” the McEwan canon (except the plays and screenplays, but my area is novels, anyway) now, with the reading of The Daydreamer. I was dubious about McEwan’s ability to craft a tale–in his voice–that would be remotely appropriate for children, but I am pleasantly surprised to report that he overcame all my doubts.
Peter Fortune is a ten-year-old boy with a vivid imagination, one that often isolates him from the world outside but gives him a rich interior life full of wild daydreams. The book is a series of short adventures, with Peter becoming a doll and having to fight off a Bad Doll (reminiscient of Toy Story), switching bodies with his cat, and staring down a bully by making believe that said bully transforms into a monster to scare other children. Peter is an intuitive character who grows up in the novel without the nauseating Learning Lessons didacticism present in so many children’s stories.
McEwan’s “children’s voice” is one I’d best describe as Neil Gaiman meets C.S. Lewis (and that’s a compliment, in my books!). I honestly enjoyed The Daydreamer quite a bit (though I’d recommend for slightly older or highly imaginative, well-read children), and I wish that Ian McEwan would write more novels for children.