Thursday, May 22, 2008

Children of Men by P. D. James

My mom sent me a copy of Children of Men after I told her I had seen the movie. This was one of those rare instances where I am glad that I saw the film before having read the book. There are often times when someone will think, "wow, the book was so much better than the movie." There are rare times when someone will think, "wow, the movie was actually better than the book." But, it is unusual - in my experience - to think "wow, those two stories had almost nothing to do with one another."
Don't get me wrong, the world that P. D. James created is the same world that is seen in the film. The main character is the same. There are one or two scenes that are almost word for word identical between the movie and the book. But overall, the two stories are vastly different. Both good, but with completely different motivations, themes, and outcomes. Honestly, I would have to say, given a choice, I liked the movie better than the book. The movie, staring Clive Owen, was incredible. All of my cinema students raved about the cinematography and the development of the theme. It was a fantastically interesting post-apocalyptic style movie. There are a lot of relevant contemporary topics that the movie addresses in very subtle ways.
James' novel, on the other hand, took a futuristic world in order to examine the inner workings of a jaded academic and his relationship with his cousin who has become the Warden of England. Much of the story revolves around Theo's inner thoughts about the state of the world. He is completely self-absorbed and only looks outside of himself when he gets to know Julian. There is very little examination of greater social ills that make the movie so fascinating.
If nothing else, I was intrigued to read a futuristic novel by P.D. James who is much better known for her mystery series. This book seems like a stark break from her general style. I am curious to go back and read some of her other work now and see if I can find the threads that led to the creation of the Children of Men world.
I wouldn't recommend this book if you loved the movie and want to know more about the world. You won't find it in this novel. To be honest, I'm not sure who I would recommend this book to. My husband hated it, but wanted me to read it. His comment was that he disliked the main character and couldn't relate to him or empathize with him. I didn't feel quite that strongly. But it is not the most uplifting read.

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