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The Children of Men [Paperback]

P. D. James
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
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Book Description

5 Aug 2010

A stand-alone thriller from P. D. James.

The year is 2021. No child has been born for twenty-five years. The human race faces extinction.

Under the despotic rule of Xan Lyppiat, the Warden of England, the old are despairing and the young cruel. Theo Faren, a cousin of the Warden, lives a solitary life in this ominous atmosphere. That is, until a chance encounter with a young woman leads him into contact with a group of dissenters. Suddenly his life is changed irrevocably as he faces agonising choices which could affect the future of mankind.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (5 Aug 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571253415
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571253418
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 187,212 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

P. D. James was born in Oxford in 1920 and educated at Cambridge High School for Girls. From 1949 to 1968 she worked in the National Health Service and subsequently in the Home Office, first in the Police Department and later in the Criminal Policy Department. All that experience has been used in her novels.

She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and of the Royal Society of the Arts and has served as a Governor of the BBC, a member of the Arts Council, where she was Chairman of its Literary Advisory Panel, on the Board of the British Council and as a magistrate in Middlesex and London.

She has won awards for crime writing in Britain, America, Italy and Scandinavia, including the Mystery Writers of America Grandmaster Award. She has received honorary degrees from seven British universities, was awarded an OBE in 1983 and was created a life peer in 1991. In 1997 she was elected President of the Society of Authors.

She lives in London and Oxford and has two daughters, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Product Description


"A book of such accelerating tension that the pages seem to turn faster as one moves along." --"Chicago Tribune" "As scary and suspenseful as anything in Hitchcock." --"The New Yorker" "Extraordinary. . . . Daring. . . . Frightening in its implications." --"The New York Times" "Fascinating, suspenseful, and morally provocative. The characterizations are sharply etched and the narrative is compelling."--"Chicago Sun-Times" "Extraordinary ... daring ... frightening in its implications."--"The New York Times" "She writes like an angel. Every character is closely drawn. Her atmosphere is unerringly, chillingly convincing. And she manages all this without for a moment slowing down the drive and tension of an exciting mystery."--"The Times" (UK) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

Stunning paperback repackages celebrating the world's pre-eminent crime writer and over forty years of detective fiction.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cracking good read 15 Mar 2007
By International Cowgirl VINE VOICE
Theo Faron is an uncomfortable hero, perhaps even an anti-hero. Beginning with Theo's diary entry for 1st January 2021, we are asked to empathise with a fifty year old man who has never loved, in spite of having been married and fathered a child. He writes with more warmth of the family cat, and turns his back on an old colleague in his hour of need. It's hardly surprising that Theo isn't exactly slitting his wrists at the idea of humankind dying out. He doesn't seem to like humans very much anyway.

All this changes, however - as so often happens - with the arrival of a beautiful woman, the oddly-named Julian, a pre-Raphaelite goddess with a misshapen hand. (The polar opposite of Julianne Moore's gung ho character in the film, if you've seen it.) Julian is one of a small group of would-be activists, wanted by the State Security Police. The moment that Theo's diary gives way to breathless ramblings about this nubile creature buying oranges in the supermarket, you know it's only a matter of time before he too is in trouble.

The book is divided into two sections - Omega and Alpha. Omega makes good use of the diary conceit to feed us the ghastly details of James's imagined Britain: desperate woman pushing dolls about in prams; christenings held for kittens; old people 'encouraged' to take their own lives. With this cowardly new world firmly established, book two - Alpha - cranks up the pace, with a cat and mouse pursuit through the countryside. A more traditional third-person narrative takes hold of the story when it's no longer safe enough for Theo to keep a diary. The violence is real and bloody, and some tight plotting saves plenty of surprises for the end.

Religious symbolism is there in spades if you want it.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A thought provoking novel... 5 Aug 2009
In a world where no child has been born for 25 years a small group of five rebels begin to plan to challenge the ruling dictatorship of England. But the five are far from united and seek help from Theo Faron, an academic who is the cousin of Xan the Warden of England. He believes there are many injustices and agrees to help them albeit reluctantly. He is also strongly attracted to Julian, a mysterious and lovely member of the group.

The Children of Men is a beautifully written dystopic novel The infertility has caused changes in attitudes and morality as the population becomes distorted. Many social issues are raised:
-"voluntary" suicides of the elderly
-indulgence of last born Omegas leading to criminality
-importation of other races to fill the labour gap but without being given any rights
-brutal suppression of criminals

The author also explores the way in which the regime in power wants to "do the right thing" but ends up prioritising policies and never quite coming to grips with the most serious problems.

A really interesting and thought provoking novel - and Theo is a great invention as the reluctant hero.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
By vilcxjo
The premiss of this novel is without parallel to my knowledge; and for all its unfamiliarity it comes across as thoroughly convincing and moving both because of the skill and care taken over the presentation of its setting and because of the way James blends the outworking of its grim thesis with the timeless themes of "faith, hope and love."
"Sci-fi" is a total misdescription: it may be set in an hypothetical future, but this future is - deliberately - so close to the present that literal accuracy or technical prediction is clearly beside the point. Like "1984" and other dystopic visions, its strengths lie in its terrifying picture of a world which can be all too easily extrapolated from the commonplace realities of the world that we accept almost without question.
I've read and much enjoyed several of the author's Dalgliesh detective novels, but I have no hesitation in saying that this is a greater, more imaginative and probably more important work than any of them. It's one of those really rather few books that I can't imagine ever forgetting.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
This book captivated me for its excellent use of the language. Admittedly it has a slow start, but once you latch on to it, the book gets hold of you by its bold concept of a world stricken by mass infertility. Living as I do in a highly populated country where a woman who does not bear children has often to suffer social stigmatisation, I was at once fascinated by the theme. The author embroiders the subject with some fanciful but quite plausible images of women cosseting toys instead of non-existent children and celebrating lavishly the birthdays of kittens. The pity of it, Iago! The people in this childless world are looked after well by the dictator who rules the country but man is never a satisfied animal and up springs a rebel group who strikes the iron hand as it were. The dissidents draw into their fold someone who is close to the Warden as the ruler is called (how and when the political system in England changed I don't know!), someone who is the narrator of the story. Is their charter of demands conceded? Will man disappear from the face of the earth leaving ``not a wrack behind''? Isn't there a ray of hope for man? All that forms the rest of the story. The novel is written in two narrative styles: first person as well as the omniscient third person. The first person narrative is in the form of pages from a diary: the dates are from the opening decades of the next century. I did a little bit of checking and found that the days as given by the author for her dates are quite correct. My admiration for an author who takes care of the minutiae. The later chapters where a chase occurs tend to drag on and there is little suspenseful action here but that is more than compensated by the very deft handling of prose to which I alluded in the beginning of this review. Read more ›
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic
Just an outstanding read. James had me crying in my lunch break at work, as I read the final few pages. Very different from the movie (2006) so give it a read.
Published 15 days ago by Cole
4.0 out of 5 stars An entirely plausible dystopian future...
A little slow to start, but worth a read. A disturbingly realistic commentary on society and the vulnerability of the human race.
Published 3 months ago by neveragain
3.0 out of 5 stars Good Idea, Meandering Execution
The premise of the book probably earned it a film adaptation. The human race can no longer reproduce. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Critic21
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrifying warning
Unputdownable - a terrifying modern parable of a world run on totalitarian lines, with an aging population, in which no babies are being born because no men are producing viable... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Ms. Riane Revah
5.0 out of 5 stars PD James is always good
I have read this book before when it first came out but decided that I would like to read it again on holiday, which is why I bought the kindle version. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Caroline Bean
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a real kind of dystopia
Ok, I'll be honest, I've seen the movie first on this one and didn't really consider the book till I read the excellent 'The age of Aquarius' by A W Findlay, and searching for... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Sorina C
4.0 out of 5 stars The human race at an end?
A really intriguing novel, although quite depressing. P.D. James' writing is once again superb and the characters and plot have depth.
Published 5 months ago by liliane white
4.0 out of 5 stars Juvenile narrative with exploration of some interesting themes
This book seems an anomaly in P.D.James' normal genre of crime thrillers and describes a future Britain in which the last ever baby was born 25 years ago and how individuals and... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Nathan Cooper
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking: A most original idea
Excellent! An unusual subject for this author but just as gripping as her detective novels and written with her usual skill.l More please!
Published 10 months ago by Hilary Clulow
4.0 out of 5 stars A level set text
My son had to read this as part of his A level English studies. I'm only familiar with P D James crime fiction but he thought it a good book
Published 14 months ago by G. M. Sidoli
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