Friday, August 30, 2013

The Children of Men

P.D. James
Reviewed by: Nancy
4 out of 5 stars


Told with P. D. James' s trademark suspense, insightful characterization, and riveting storytelling, "The Children of Men" is a story of a world with no children and no future. The human race has become infertile, and the last generation to be born is now adult. Civilization itself is crumbling as suicide and despair become commonplace. Oxford historian Theodore Faron, apathetic toward a future without a future, spends most of his time reminiscing. Then he is approached by Julian, a bright, attractive woman who wants him to help get her an audience with his cousin, the powerful Warden of England. She and her band of unlikely revolutionaries may just awaken his desire to live . . . and they may also hold the key to survival for the human race.

My Review

I went to the library to spice up my life and came across a display inviting me to go on a blind date with a book. Each one was covered in brown wrapping paper with a big red heart. Underneath the heart was a very brief description. The one I picked up said “Receptive and chilling”.

It was fun driving home with a book I knew absolutely nothing about. I couldn’t wait to get it home, pour myself a glass of wine, strip off its cover, and learn its secrets. To my disappointment, it was The Children of Men, a book I read shortly after it came out. I liked it well enough at the time, but found that years later nothing stood out for me but the Quietus and the feral Painted Faces. I saw the film around 2007 and can’t remember a single thing about it, only that there was more action and less reflection and introspection. 

In 2021, the world is ending quietly. No babies have been born since 1995, the last one killed when he was just 25. People are getting older, trapped in routines, becoming resigned. Infrastructure is falling apart from lack of maintenance and small towns are losing their population.  

Theodore Faron is a history professor who no longer has any children of his own and none to teach. He is keeping a journal to record the last half of his life and lives a solitary existence until he meets Julian and a small group of people who desire to revolt against the dictatorship of England, whose leader happens to be Theo’s cousin Xan.  

When I first read this book, I found the characters largely bland and uninteresting and much preferred the second half when Theo and the five revolutionaries were on the run. 

Now, I found I rather enjoyed reading about Theo’s childhood and relationship with Xan, his failed marriage, the people he encounters, his feelings about the events going on around him, and the gradual process of his falling in love.

“A failed marriage is the most humiliating confirmation of the transitory seduction of the flesh. Lovers can explore every line, every curve and hollow, of the beloved’s body, can together reach the height of inexpressible ecstasy; yet how little it matters when love or lust at last dies and we are left with disputed possessions, lawyers’ bills, the sad detritus of the lumber-room, when the house chosen, furnished, possessed with enthusiasm and hope has become a prison, when faces are set in lines of peevish resentment and bodies no longer desired are observed in all their imperfections with a dispassionate and disenchanted eye.”

I enjoyed this book much more with the second reading. Maybe it’s because I am now Theo’s age and can understand his feelings much better. Or maybe I have more patience and prefer rich characterization and lovely descriptions of countryside to lots of mindless action. Now that the book is fresh in my mind, I’ll think about watching the film again.

Also posted at Goodreads.