Time and childhood

The Child in Time Ian McEwan

At first glance from the blurb I expected a Madeleine McCann type story.  So, I started it with some trepidation, but it was a bookclub book so it had to be done.

Whilst, Kate the missing child dominates, I was surprised how little the story was actually about her.  I came to see what happened to Kate as the starting point to look at the concept of being trapped in time.

I loved the exploration of time and what it means, especially how the author cleverly speeded up time and then slowed it down.  It totally showcased the genius of the writing.

McEwan uses various ways to play with this concept of time. There’s the role of the commitee in giving structure to Stephen’s time – time was used to show that the book had already been written (past), whilst the committe sat (present) and worked towards their report (future). Brilliant!

Perhaps most impressively McEwan used his style of writing to demonstrate his theme, with the details about the committee being dull and bringing on a feeling of lethargy. Yet other parts were fast paced and absorbing.

The other theme inherent in the title is ‘child’ or childhood.  Obviously for Stephen this began with the missing Kate and then Julie’s decision not to share her pregnancy, so he had no time to prepare. The references to Stephen’s own childhood via his ride in the train engine as if he needed this memory of his own childhood before he moved on.

The character most impacted here was Charles. His revision back to childhood and Thelma’s role in this. Did this refect her experience as never having had a child? Was this their attraction?

The book is dystopian in nature which allowed for political commentary of sorts, including the gender neutral PM, most likely a representation of the Iron Lady.  This style allowed the almost magical story around Stephen and his parents’ memories, how he could access a memory from before he was born.  Memories and how we choose what to remember is another theme.

For bookclubs the quality and diversity of themes make it an absolute winner. I’m not sure I loved it, but I found it intriguing and definitely worthwhile with lots to talk about.

I read this in November but am only just catching up on review. I ran out of time (!).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *