Karen's Reviews > The Children of Men

The Children of Men by P.D. James
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Mar 22, 12

Read in March, 2012

Read this for book club, and loved it. It's an incredibly fast read, and a deeply thoughtful, literate, and disturbing book, with layer upon layer of meaning packed in. (Without giving anything away-- read to the end, and then go look up the origin of the "Nunc Dimittis.")

The concept is simple: in October of 1995, the last human baby is born. That's it. They call it Year Omega. Humanity utterly loses its ability to reproduce. No one knows why or how; even sperm collected in a sperm bank before that date suddenly ceases to be viable. Animals are still fertile, but for mankind, this appears to be the beginning of the end. The book begins some 25 years after this event, on New Year's Day, 2021, with the diary of Theodore Faron, professor of Victorian history at Oxford, cousin and former advisor to the all-powerful Warden of England, the tyrant who rules over their aging (and dying) country. Theo is 50, and is beginning a record of the last half of his life.

This book was a thought experiment. Given this momentous and unexplained event, how would society change? How would we react? What would we do, or cease to do, in the face of a loss of posterity? How would we treat each other? I don't agree with all of James' ideas (why would the inability to have kids suddenly make sex boring?) and the book did have some small flaws (for me, the largest was the "romance" between Theo and Julian-- it just sort of spun up out of nowhere, to me), but overall it was excellent. I only wished I had a better grounding in Victorian lit, myself, because I feel like I missed something for not having read the books Theo and Julian talk about when they first meet. The constant and inescapable religious references and parallels are also intriguing, particularly given that only two main characters in the book claim faith (everyone else is agnostic or atheist.)

I can say my timing couldn't have been more perfect-- it was *very* intriguing to be reading it right now, with the GOP playing gender politics (again) and trying to place yet more restrictions (again) on abortion and contraception and a woman's rights over her own body.

Worth a read, and worth a re-read. I want to see the movie, too, tho' I've been told it has almost nothing to do with the plot of the book.
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