Ian McEwan is the bestselling author of more than ten books, including the novels The Comfort of Strangers and Black Dogs, both shortlisted for the Booker Prize, Amsterdam, winner of the Booker Prize, and The Child in Time, winner of the Whitbread Award, as well as the story collections First Love, Last Rites, winner of the Somerset Maugham Award, and In Between the Sheets. He has also written screenplays, plays, television scripts, a children's book, and the libretto for an oratorio. He lives in London.
A sense of loss pervades this fine, provocative new novel by the author of The Comfort of Strangers. The protagonist, Stephen Lewis, a successful author of children's books, is introduced to us in a scene more frightening than any from a horror novel: while he is shopping with Kate, his three-year-old daughter, the child is kidnapped. Stephen's mounting terror as he combs the store for Katetrying in vain to recall the face of the dark-clad stranger he glimpsed behind themis palpable. As the story moves forward, it focuses not only on Stephen's search for his daughter, but also on his attempts to come to terms with his loss and the likely collapse of his marriage to Julie, a musician. Woven through the narrative is a subplot that deals with childhood and loss of a different sort. It is the innocence of youth that Stephen's friend and former editor, Charles Darke, longs for and ultimately recaptures at a terrible price. This is a beautifully rendered, very disturbing novel. First serial to Esquire. (September 29)
There are actually several childen in McEwan's new novel: Stephen Lewis's kidnapped daughter; the barefoot boy his friend Charles tries (with fatal results) to become; the hypothetical child under study by the Official Commission on Child Care, on one of whose subcommittees Stephen sits. And there are several fictional modes at work, ranging from a realistic account of wrenching personal loss to a satire on bureaucracy. Unfortunately these varying aspects undercut rather than reinforce one another, and the result is a muddle. English writer McEwan made his name with the scarifying stories in First Love, Last Rites ( LJ 6/15/75). Despite a happy ending, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that here he's working in an uncongenial genre. Grove Koger, Boise P.L., Id.
Whitbread Prize Winner
"A death-defying story, inventive, eventful, and affirmative without being sentimental." -Time
"Luminous, haunting, restrained ... cuts to the core of human existence." -Chicago Tribune
"Resonates with psychological reality: the beautifully layered relationships, the tracing of the many-layered love between father and child, husband and wife.... As artfully conceived as it is poignantly realized." -The New York Times Book Review
"A great pleasure to read.... McEwan writes as if Dickens, Lawrence, and Woolf were in his bones.... Funny and unsentimentally passionate." -The Wall Street Journal