Top positive review
4 people found this helpful
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.