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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Child in Time (1987) by Ian McEwan


Book Review
The Child in Time (1987)
by Ian McEwan

  McEwan placed an ASTONISHING number of titles on the first edition of the 1001 Books list: 8!  Five of them were dropped in 2008.  Another title was dropped in 2010, leaving him with only two core titles:  Atonement (his biggest hit) and The Cement Garden (his first novel.)  McEwan is an author I've always had an attitude about- I've never read Atonement, never read Amsterdam, never seen any of the movies, would laugh at someone who expressed appreciation for his talents- typical hipster bullship attitude stuff.  But I was impressed by The Cement Garden- which is spoooky as hell, and this book- The Child in Time- which is his breakthrough in terms of his- I think- characteristic ability to warp the workings of time and space.  I think that's where he's headed in his big monster hits, though I can't quite be sure.

 It's true that your author's from the 1980's who combine critical and popular success tend to couple solid, if uninspired technique with power packed twists, much in the same way a movie works to develop suspense.  Here, McEwan starts with a horrifying event: the abduction of a 3 year old child from a grocery store check out counter in London, and traces it's impact on the life of the father, the protagonist, and his wife and family.    The Child in Time obviously lacks the immense swagger of his later blockbusters, but all the elements are there.

  But losing six out of eight original titles- would clearer evidence could one have of the extremely arbitrary and biased process of canon making exercise. "Yes, let's include eight books from a guy who literally everyone who buys this book will have already heard of, because he's popular right as we are publishing this book- that's a good idea."

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