Friday, August 17, 2007

The Children of Men by PD James

Christopher has already reviewed this book and most of us have seen the movie, so I'm leaving out any synopsis. There isn't much to synopsize anyway. Sorry if my review is more negative than Christopher's; I don't like being disappointed or bored.

If from infancy you treat children as gods they are liable in adulthood to act as devils.
(I probably could have found a quote that relates more directly to the novel, but I like this one.)

Boring: I swear, nothing happens in this book until the last 70 pages. The first two thirds is just stuff. I don't even know what was in there. A lot of stuff I don't need to know to understand the book, obviously.

Insulting: I found her writing style to be a little insulting. What I do remember about the first 2/3 of the book is that she talks a lot about Theo's character: selfish, self-centered, uncaring, inconsiderate, et cetera, et cetera. And then Theo of course has a change of heart, in late middle age his personality suddenly changes for the better as a result of the extraordinary circumstances and people he's encountered. And Ms. James must think I'm a total idiot because before she explains to me this new change, she boils down Theo's personality into a Cliffs Notes-like paragraph. Maybe she thinks that after 150 pages of only Theo's character development, religious philosophy, and explanation of the Omega, I might have forgotten that first part.

Dialogue: This might be the worst dialogue I've ever read, excepting my little sister's short stories for her 5th grade writing class. I'm gonna take up a lot of space and give an excerpt of dialogue between Theo and an old woman who runs a B&B.

Theo: I'm afraid I've had an accident. I'm very wet. I don't think I'm fit to drive home tonight. Have you a vacancy? My name is Faron, Theo Faron.
Old Woman: I have a room vacant if you would just wait until I've taken Chloe for her evening duties. There's a special little place reserved for the dogs. We take care not to soil the beach. Mothers used to complain if the beach wasn't clean for the children and -- old habits remain. I'm EMO -- Evening Meal Optional. Would you be wanting that? ... I'm afraid I haven't very much in the refrigerator tonight, but I could give you soup and an omelette.
T: That would be wonderful.
O: The soup isn't home-made, I'm afraid, but I mix two tins to make it more interesting and add a little something, chopped parsley or an onion. I think you will find it palatable. Did you want it in the dining-room, or here in the sitting-room, in front of the fire? That might be cosier for you.
T: I'd like to have it here.

It's so terrible. There was actually a line where I sat up in bed and said, "Whatttt?" I would tell you, but I can't remember what it was. (Hey, it was 4 in the morning and I had insomnia. How much do you expect me to remember?)

Overall: All in all, the writing gave the impression that it was an undergrad's first attempt at novel writing -- she had already studied Philosophy 101 and Character Development 101 but hadn't yet made it to the courses on Dialogue and Plot. Interesting concept of a novel, poor execution. Because I'm feeling hateful, D+.

1 comment:

Alyson said...

Whoa, turns out PD James is a chick. I had no idea; that probably makes me sexist. Apparently the only other books she writes are mysteries, and Children of Men was kinda a side project. Maybe her murder mysteries are better.