Together in Spirit

An online reading group ('TIS a reading group!) to bring together friends, and friends of friends, who aren't able to be in a conventional reading group due to constraints of time or geography.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Childhood in a Lifetime

I did not enjoy this book. Maybe it was too soon after reading another miserable novel. I think that it is typically Ian McEwan, who delights in making you feel disturbed and anxious. I was grateful that it ended when it did. Rather suddenly, I agree. Perhaps it was also too much for the author. I did notice the attempt to put it vaguely in the future. I tried to calculate when, but became lost trying to match the historical references given by Stephen’s father with Stephen’s current age.

I felt the subject was childhood in a life time. With unresolved grief to strengthen the emotional pull. Add to that two very dysfunctional people writing a childcare manual and a female physicist, equally odd, a man who finds out he was nearly aborted as a child and the brew is a little too strong to swallow. So the pattern of childhood; lost, nearly lost, perpetuated, encouragement of the perpetuation, all influenced by the government handbook on raising children are the linkages I recognised. Stephen managed to understand his own childhood, work through his grief for Kate and start anew with Julia and the baby. I assume Charles was bipolar, which is incurable, though treatable by drugs. Thelma managed to fit her own needs around his predilections for dressing as a child. Did she need him as her child? I couldn't fit the lorry driver into this plan, but Stephen's first aid knowledge was woefully lacking and why did he not whip out his mobile phone and call for help or had ambulances become private and were too expensive?

The politics were more polarised between right and left wing than at present, the government described being very right wing having licensed beggars, large cuts in social security and Charles' own mandate of a freer City, more weapons and good private schools. The ideas of the childcare manual followed the political ideology. This view of Britain added to my feelings of anxiety, but it would depend on the reader's own political leanings.

I am very pleased others enjoyed this book more than I.