Wednesday, December 17, 2014


Author P.D. James passed away recently, and, since I’d never read one of her novels, I picked up THE CHILDREN OF MEN. I saw the movie years ago, and, although I don’t remember it very well, I think that the movie and the book share a basic premise, and that’s about all.  That premise is that humans are no longer able to procreate, and the last generation is now in their 20s.  I think the whole scenario is intriguing, and James’s imagining of its hopelessness and the unfortunate consequences is on target.  If anything, with the end of the human race on the horizon, I might expect people to behave even more badly than they do in this novel.  Theo Faron lost his only child in an accident in which Theo was at fault, and he has basically cut himself off from everyone emotionally.  Society is deteriorating, and Theo’s cousin Xan is in charge. Then one of Theo’s former students, a young woman named Julian, introduces him to a handful of people who want Theo to intercede with Xan to effect some reforms.  Xan is uncooperative, but Theo still believes than Xan is trying to do the best he can.  Months later the band of revolutionaries seek Theo out again, proclaiming that they are harboring a pregnant woman.  Her safety is their number one priority, and they don’t feel that they can trust Xan.  The movie was released during the Christmas season, and I remember thinking that the Christian overtones were obvious—a baby born in less than ideal surroundings who can potentially save the world.  These parallels are not so apparent here, although one member of the group dies so that the others can live, and James makes the Jesus reference crystal clear in this case.  A savior dies and a savior is born, maybe?  I don’t know if religious symbolism is a hallmark of her other books or not, but there are several conversations in this one, questioning the existence of God.  Bottom line:  the book was rather slow moving, and perhaps I should have chosen one of James’s mysteries as my first foray into her body of work.  On the plus side, there are reams of wise and thought-provoking passages in this book.  “The world is changed not by the self-regarding, but by men and women prepared to make fools of themselves.”

No comments: