The Children of Men by P.D. James
The Children Of Men is unlike any other book by P.D.James I have ever read. It was an excellent choice for my book group. Another of her books, Shroud for a Nightingale is reviewed on this site too, at bookreviewstoday.info/2013/07/04/shroud-for-a-n…e-by-p-d-james. The author, Phyllis Dorothy James, Baroness James of Holland Park, OBE, FRSA, FRSL is more usually known as P. D. James. She is an English crime writer and a life peer in the British House of Lords.
The Children of Men is a dystopian novel that was published in 1992. It is set in England in 2021 and centres on the results of mass infertility. The film, Children of Men starring Clive Owen is a 2006 dystopian science fiction film co-written, co-edited and directed by Alfonso Cuarón was based loosely on this novel.
In this novel the near future is dystopic and humanity is facing extinction. It suddenly became infertile in 1995 which was the year that became known as the Omega. Britain is one of the few countries where civilization still seems to survive. However, it is certainly crumbling into chaos and is now run by a dictator known as the Warden of England. People have resorted to watching old movies and television shows about the young. They keep dolls in prams and have their kittens christened in order to cope with the loss of children in the world. The novel tells of state sponsored porn shops, the regular check-ups of selected men and women for possible fertility.
In 2021, the world is ending quietly. No babies have been born since 1995, the last one killed when he was just 25. People are getting older, trapped in routines, becoming resigned. Infrastructure is falling apart from lack of maintenance and small towns are losing their population. There are also official mass suicides of the old but these are not necessarily of their own free will, in the effort to sustain declining resources. Omegas are the last generation to have been born. They are exceptionally beautiful, cruel and selfish.
Theodore Faron is a history professor who no longer has any children of his own and none to teach. He is keeping a journal to record the last half of his life and lives a solitary existence until he meets Julian and a small group of people who desire to revolt against the dictatorship of England, whose leader happens to be Theo’s cousin Xan. Faron is an Oxford historian, whose area of expertise is the nineteenth century. Faron has his own loss, his own failures, and has never been able to connect with others in any meaningful way. However, he becomes drawn in with a group of revolutionaries, and ends up finding the salvation he realizes he needs.
I found I enjoyed reading about Theo’s childhood and relationship with Xan, his failed marriage, the people he encounters, his feelings about the events going on around him, and the gradual process of his falling in love. Never-the-less even at the novel’s end, we are left both elated and chilled, wondering what will become of these people. I found I invested a lot of emotion in this book. It is a beautifully written, very cleverly constructed novel of ideas with a well-developed main character. James is writing about alienation and estrangement (personal, political, social). She also offers a really thoughtful, interesting exploration of political responsibility in the face of tyranny.
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