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3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 12 July 2017
Not my favourite of his by a long stretch, but an easy read nonetheless. I found some of the emotions following the main event didn't ring true and felt that the secondary story was vague. Ian McEwan does, however, have a beautiful writing style and I enjoyed the book for that reason.
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on 2 January 2017
One of the best books I have read, outstanding writer, this was a while ago now so I imagine most readers have read it, all McEwan books are first class and unforgettable reads.
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on 13 May 2016
The copy I received was heavily annotated.
But I don't care.
I read this at Uni, just wanted to re-read it.
It was fun reading the annotations.
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on 5 July 2017
Haven't read it yet
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on 5 April 2017
Bought as a present
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on 26 April 2017
I thoroughly enjoyed this book with its emotional intelligence and surprise ending.
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on 1 June 2017
Not one of Ian McEwan's best books. The story line is muddled and very implausible.
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on 18 March 2016
I am giving up on Ian McEwan - he is forever going "round and round the mulberry bush" and the underlying suggestion as to how clever he is is getting a bit tedious.
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I very much liked his later novels, Enduring Love and Saturday, and this has something in common - the reflective style and the careful attention to small details, but it feels like he hasn't yet found out how to weave a literary thread out of a philosophical theme and make it work. The theme in this case is lost childhood. We have the lost kidnapped daughter, the beggar girl whose innocence is lost, the friend Charles Darke who lost his childhood and tries to regain it in later life, the nearly lost childhood of Stephen when his mother considered an abortion, the childcare manual unsympathetic to children, the prime minister who abuses his power like a spoiled child, and the final event in the book which I won't reveal.

In my view the book fails in two ways. It feels like the examples of lost childhood are randomly encountered. They don't combine to mean anything, nor do they give us any insight into childhood. The only meaningful connection between the examples is that Charles Darke wrote the manual, but that is barely explored. Even the final event is predictable and slightly corny. At the end I felt it was all slightly pointless and unconvincing.

The other problem is the attempt to bring out the theme of childhood through an examination of time which never takes off. He makes the observation that time is different for children. Every adult knows that but the book has no insight to offer on the subject. An incident is described in which Stephen feels that time has slowed down. So what? We all have that feeling occasionally. He then talks to a physicist to get "the latest" understanding of time. Does he really think that the relativity of time has any connection to Stephen's experience? The author knows it doesn't and quickly moves on. At one point he describes two possible futures as though he is referencing the bifurcating worlds of quantum physics. Again, this doesn't fit with anything else in the book and isn't developed. It feels like he has brought in the time theme merely as an artifice to let Stephen see his mother considering an abortion.

The story is set the eighties with a touch of magical realism and a touch of dystopia. This does nothing to enhance the development of the themes. The magical realism provides an excuse for Stephen to see his parents before they were married; it makes possible the weird scene with Charles acting like a child. But none of it feels justified. Nor does the dystopia. Why is it possible for Stephen to walk around a school and join a class without being challenged? Why is it possible for the Prime Minister to behave in such a peculiar way? Why are there licensed beggars? The magical realism and the dystopia are just unconvincing, as though included to add spice to a pointless story.
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on 20 November 2008
the child in time is a good example of what mcewan is all about. not the place to go for a gripping page turner, but thoroughly absorbing in every stroke of the pen.

mcewan is aware of the complexities of life, and through a linear medium is able to present a layered, textured, 3-dimensional portrayal of the situations under his attentive gaze, characterised by his micro-vision.

the child in the title is at once a central character, the nature of children and child rearing, and the child in all of us, as it comes and goes. similarly, the rest of the title refers to times in life and lifetimes, the particular time in our history, pure time in existence. (perhaps at the time of writing, 20 years younger, mcewan was more interested than he might be today, in questions of coincidence, serendipity, synchronicity and the like, laced with the mystical possibilities of the then new physics.) so the title itself is already a paradigm for the entire work and the method of working.

the writing is delightful; incisive and insightful, sympathetic and at times poetic.

an excellent introduction for newcomers and a treat for fans.
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