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The Children of Men Paperback – 5 Aug 2010
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The year is 2021. No child has been born for twenty-five years. The human race faces extinction. So begins The Children of Men, P.D. James's dystopian novel of mass infertility and chilling mystery.
About the Author
P. D. James was a bestselling and internationally acclaimed crime writer. She was the creator of Adam Dalgliesh and Cordelia Gray, and their long and successful series of mysteries. Her works include Cover Her Face (1962), An Unsuitable Job for a Woman (1972), Innocent Blood (1980), Children of Men (1992), and the Jane Austen-inspired Death Comes to Pemberley (2011).
James was born in Oxford in 1920. She won awards for crime writing in Britain, America, Italy and Scandinavia, including the Mystery Writers of America Grandmaster Award. She received honorary degrees from seven British universities, was awarded an OBE in 1983 and created a life peer in 1991. In 1997 she was elected President of the Society of Authors, and stood down from this role in 2013.
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I was never entirely convinced by James's future world, with no children being born. In some ways, she built it up very credibly - the dolls in prams, the christenings of kittens. On the other hand, much was made of the shortage of labour to take care of the elderly and keep society running, but there was no discussion of all the people who would have been freed up by not having to care for and educate children, when there were still plenty of people in their late twenties and thirties alive.
This novel was also meant to be realistic, yet several times it fell flat on its face. For example, the leading character plunges into the winter sea. He's hauled out and left between two beach huts where he falls asleep, not awaking for hours. Oddly - very oddly - he doesn't develop hypothermia, and even turns down the offer of a hot bath.
Yes, it was a thought-provoking novel, but it failed to convince.
This was written or at least published in 1967. Having been born in the fifties, I'm old enough to remember the sixties, and the atmosphere and writing of this story seems more of the twenties or thirties with references to maids and cooks, and expensive doctors that command a god-like reverence.
Whilst I am a huge fan of Agatha Christie, Dorothy L Sayers et al this tale reads like Ngiao Marsh on a not- so- good day.
I cannot believe that any group of writers described as in this story would behave like spoilt, ill-mannered children in real life. The murder was unfathomable, unlike the murderer, whom I had a suspicion about after listening to cd one and was certain about after cd two.
Perhaps Ms James was writing this as a fulfilment of a contract, or to meet some kind of deadline; but to my mind the quality was way, way below her usual output. Disappointing.
A classic PD James, although for me a trifle slow-moving at times as the layout and routines of the clinic are necessarily explored. The culprit? An early suspect I had barely considered. Dalgliesh’s task is complicated by office politics, blackmail, love affairs and ambition.
Read more of my book reviews at my blog http://www.sandradanby.com/book-reviews-a-z/