on 16 December 1998
Ian McEwan's vision is usually dark and uncomfortable although true to his subject. In The Daydreamer a brighter light is shining. The main character is a young boy who daydreams. His fantasies are the adventures in this book. In them McEwan tenderly deals with ideas of being someone else, of changing beyond recognition - of growing up. The stories all have depth and are amusing and well told. Many have a lingering sadness, as when Peter changes bodies with the cat for a day before it dies. There is always hope though and death is just another adventure. McEwan's goal was to produce a book that children and adults would enjoy and he has done so. The Daydreamer is a perfect book for sharing and discussing and has contain ideas for both adults and children to ponder.
on 3 March 2011
This could be a collection of short stories but each story is called a chapter and tells about Peter. In the first half of the novel Peter is a ten-year-old schoolboy and in seven 'chapters' or 'stories' we follow him from his childhood to adulthood. The border between stories and novel is blurred away. It's meant to be read by adults and children alike.
Peter is called a daydreamer. I'm not a psychologist but this sounds like an understatement. After the title page Ian McEwan gives a fragment of the Metamorphoses by Ovid: "My purpose is to tell of bodies which have been transformed into shapes of a different kind." The 'daydream' once it gets in Peter's mind begins to live a life of its own. Real life doesn't matter anymore or better, real life ceases to exist. This can lead to unpleasant surprises. For instance: he sits on the bus to school with his younger seven-year-old sister and his parents insisted that he watched her closely. But he forgets all about her during a daydream. When he wakes up his sister is nowhere to be seen...
There are seven chapters and each chapter consists of a daydream that illustrates his coming of age from a schoolboy to an adult.
When I said earlier that 'daydreamer' was an understatement I meant that the imaginary shifts into reality without you being aware of it at the beginning. A daydreamer knows it's a daydream, Peter thinks it's reality. His 'daydreams' are almost delusional. Gradually the 'daydream' becomes reality and the borderline between the two disappears. Peter doesn't want the daydream, the daydream wants Peter.
To give an example: in the second chapter Peter comes home after school. He sits on the sofa and William the old cat jumps on his lap. Peter begins to tickle William. Purring, William turns on his back. He touches Peter's hand and leads it to his chin. When Peter starts tickling the cat under his chin he feels something strange in the fur of the cat. When he examines it, it turns out to be the beginning of a zipper to open not only the fur but also the skin of William. What follows will baffle you.
As you're reading this you know it's a fantasy but when does it start? For all we know William the cat doesn't exist or Peter is still in school dreaming during a lesson.
It's obvious that Ian McEwan writes about human imagination. Where are its limits? Are we able to see the borderline between reality and imagination? Does that borderline exists to begin with?
"The Daydreamer" is an astonishing praise of human imagination and what it's capable of. Don't make the mistake to think that this book was written for children.
on 23 December 2000
I read this one whilst downloading old music from my childhood days and had a lovely trip back in time, almost drifting off to the rainy English days spent at home reading Roal Dahl on my bed as a child. The storytelling style reminded me a lot of Dahl, and coming from a self confessed childhood Dahl obsessive, that's a pretty major compliment. The stories are short, slightly twisted, and reminded me exactly what it was I so enjoyed about reading back then. This is one book I'll be popping the post to my ten year old godson.
on 24 March 2000
Recently in English at my school we have been reading this book, we have discussed the many ways you can read it, whether you are a young child or an adult, we all agreed it explains many ways of life but in fun interesting way, depending in the way you look at the book. Many of us (12 year olds) were put off by the front cover but by the time we had read the first few pages the book had drawn us into it, and we were longing after the lesson to read on, some of us did.
on 12 July 1999
This book is like the creepy stories you find in Roald Dahl's 'Kiss, Kiss', or 'Tales of the Unexpected'. My favourite is the story of the Bad Doll, as you leave it wondering who is the doll, and who is the boy. Every story is weird, and every story leaves you wondering whether it really happened.
I think this book is good for readers aged 9-13. However, some of it can be a bit babyish - the bit about Gwen and teddy bears is a bit much for the kids aged 13, and a bit yucky really. So give the last chapter a miss! But older kids will read it because it's disturbing, surreal and weird, all the same.
on 8 May 2011
I read this book for a book club, where we had to read anything by Ian McEwan. I'd heard his novels were "heavy" and so far we'd read pretty dreary novels in the book club, but I read that this particular book was "funnier than Rohl Dahl. (Sorry If I misspelled that!). I am also a teacher of children so I thought it would be an interesting book. Well I found this book to be DELIGHTFUL! It's about a boy whose imagination takes him into very interesting situations that are as real to him as breathing. He learns a lot from his imaginations, mostly about empathy. It really showed me how some kids do think, and how they do learn. It had a cute sense of humour and was a quick read. It's the kind of book you would gladly pull out a chapter and reread it just to put yourself in a good mood. As a grandmother I loved the description of the main character being his cousin, a baby. I also liked the description of him being his old cat. The standing up to the bully chapter (which seems compulsory in these sorts of books) was also great, and worth reading to all bullied kids. Highly recommended to adults, not just kids!
on 12 October 2012
Ian McEwan, born 1948, has always had a knack of writing emphatically about children. He does so in several of his books, not least The Cement Garden (1980) where, through the 14 year old narrator, Jack, he gives a convincing and detailed view of the world of childhood left to fend for itself. So it is good to find that he has managed, amongst his tribe of adult books, to write some novels for children as well.
This novel, The Daydreamer, first published in 1984, starts nicely from a third person's perspective and has a straightforward style. It deals directly with the workings of a young boy's mind, and the differentiating between that and the mind-set of adults. It's also comparable with Matilda by Roald Dahl (Dahl, 2001), published in 1988.
A reviewer in the Publishers Weekly said that McEwan's prose in The Daydreamer "reveals a profound understanding of childhood" (Publisher Weekly, 1994).
McEwan, in his book The Daydreamer, writes about a ten year old boy who, by the end of the story has grown into a twelve year old adolescent. The story is progressive, and has a thought-provoking end which could easily have had a sequel.
The Daydreamer is a progression of short stories and each one could have been self contained.
McEwan's writing is realistic, even though Peter's daydreams are extremely imaginative.
McEwan is quick to exploit the differences between the boy, Peter, and the adult world. It suddenly becomes a dangerous time for Peter, attributable to the misunderstanding of grownups that label him a "problem child". The misunderstanding takes place because there is more going on in Peter's head than in the world outside. A useful idea that McEwan takes full advantage of in some of his adult novels too. Mixing interiority with exteriority enriches what otherwise would have been very placid scenes.
One thing noticeable in the book is McEwan's usage of upbeat names and positive sentences. When negativity does encroach it is dealt with in a constructive manner - like the house burglar, Soapy Sam, or the bully, Barry Tamerlane, whose name derives `from the Persian, Timur-i lang', the last great nomadic leader, a conquer, empire builder and, the first to exploit settled populations. Tamerlane is examined by Peter in a positive light, revealing a streak of underlying humour in McEwan's writing style.
The Daydreamer shows great use of imagination, voice, and an understanding of the emotional and underlying processes of growing up - the view from a child's perspective; the skill of enhancing the outer world by use of the inner; the changing world of children's literature along with the importance of positive messages within the storyline, and the unsighted views of realism and fantasy.
in particular the usage of words, language, imagery and illustrations, and how he incorporated these into his work is second to none.
on 11 October 2009
The Daydreamer is actually Peter Fortune a young boy who though people might see as quite and a little bit subdued, dull and distant is actually a boy who has such an over active imagination he often vanishes off into the land of daydreaming. In fact Peter does this so often that he tends to forget everything around him, what the time is, what day it might be or even who he actually is. In fact it is this part of his personality that makes people label him difficult when really what he is harbouring is actually quite a talent.
After being introduced to Peter which is a comic little opener to the book we then in the following chapters, which read like individual short stories, get to see just how his imagination goes off with him in some wonderfully surreal tales. One day his sister Katie's evil dolls one day turn on him and try and make him one of them when he gets his own room. One day he swaps places with his very old cat and goes around showing the local cats just who is boss. One day he manages to get rid of all of his family. One day he manages to catch the local burglar causing a suburban wave of fear during a crime spree down The Fortunes road.
In fact what the book is also looking at is things from the eyes of children for adults that read it and through the eyes of others for children that read it. For example The Cat looks at loss and mortality (it is quite sad be warned), The Baby looks at things through a babies eyes and tries to deal with jealousy of older children and The Grown Up looks at the future and sort of touches on puberty and trying to understand adults a bit more which for a child must be a mystery. You could call these modern fables in a way but all done with a human angle whilst being sometimes quirky, sometimes surreal, sometimes humorous, sometimes sad, sometimes disturbing and yet always very entertaining.
on 8 November 2001
I think it's easy to characterise this as a children's book- I first read it when I was about 12 or so, and I'm 18 now and I still love it. It is the perfect book to dip into when you want ten minutes of just relaxing... it is very, very strange, but totally absorbing. As it is a book that appeals to children, it has moments of very sweet humour and really reflects the innocent mindset of children, but at the same time it is very dark.