Review Of A Child In Time By Ian Mcewan Although most remembered for his earlier work, The Cement Garden, McEwan’s more recent work of fiction, A Child In Time, offers a very different perspective into the theme of childhood – this time an adult’s understanding of a juvenile world. The novel has been highly critically acclaimed since its first publication, and despite its disjointed prose style and at times ambiguous thread of McEwan’s plot, it consistently proves a popular literary work nearly five years later. The book offers insight into one man’s progress through the stages of grief, as he mourns the loss of his only child, an eight-year old named Kate. As the protagonist, Stephen seeks to understand his loss, he turns towards science and philosophy to understand the very nature of time and understand where he and his now dysfunctional family unit have altered so drastically with time’s passing. McEwan has clearly succeeded in creating an atmosphere of childhood as seen through an adults eyes – the simplistic beauty of his description of Kate’s relationship with her father is portrayed with extreme realism and the family unit’s degeneration is charted with absolute clarity of detail throughout.
Despite the lucidity of Mc Ewan’s narrative voice, the plot sometimes delves into the improbable. As readers we witness the slightly dubious transition of Charles Darke, (one of the protagonist’s colleagues), from respected mentor to overgrown schoolboy. Although certainly not a dramatic twist to the plot, it does come over as being a somewhat extravagant change and slightly superfluous to the overall plot. McEwan has also developed his tale around a series of flashbacks and jumbled memories; which, although rather effective in conveying the subjective viewpoint of his characters, makes for a slightly confusing read. Despite this lapse is structural style, the novel is certainly technically adept and philosophically questioning, often enquiring into fundamental questions concerning the very nature of time within a very realistic framework.
McEwan seamlessly switches from tense emotional drama to highly scientific, explorative language. This not only superbly demonstrates the writer’s skill, but effectively contrasts the homeliness of family life against stark objectivity of time. Stephen’s flashbacks of his lost child are expressed with such an unnervingly realistic edge, the reader cannot help but sympathize deeply with his plight. One particularly memorable stage of the novel involves Stephen desperately searching a local school where he believes the lost child will be found. This incident seems decidedly inspired by the classic film, Don’t Look Now – a red raincoat is glimpsed in the distance fuelling the futile hope that the lost child may at last be found. Although thematically similar to several of his previous works, Ian McEwan has lifted his narrative style into something far more involving and experimental. Although the jargon-laden language used in some place in the novel requires more sustained concentration for the less-scientifically minded reader, the book will nevertheless prove popular with both existing fans of McEwan and newer readers alike.
McEwan has once again proven himself to be one of the most original English writers to emerge in recent years, and this eerie tale may well prove to be unmissable. English Essays.