Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Book Review- The Children of Men

The Children of Men by P.D. James receives an A. I saw the book on a suggestions for Catholic fiction website and was intrigued. I looked to see if my local library had it and sure enough, they did. I checked it out. I also did some digging about the author. She's an Anglican so the priest in the story, I'm assuming, is an Anglican one. But the Anglican church is very similar to the Catholic one and the story doesn't go into dogma much so it's a very good read.

Here's what the jacket says the book is about:
The year is 2021, and the human race is-- quite literally--coming to an end. Since 1995 no babies have been born, because in that year all males unexpectedly became infertile. Great Britain is ruled by a dictator, and the population is inexorably growing older. Theodore Faron, Oxford historian and incidentally, cousin of the all-powerful Warden of England, watches in growing despair as society gradually crumbles around him, giving way to strange faiths and cruelties: prison camps, mass organized euthanasia, roving bands of thugs. Then, suddenly, Faron is drawn into the plans of an unlikely group of revolutionaries. His passivity is shattered, and the action begins.

I would also like to quote this well thought out part of the book. The main character is narrating in this section. He is, for all intensive purposes, an atheist but brought up Church of England. These are his observations. Please be aware that the below content is not suitable for children.

Page 116
Sex has become among the least important of man's sensory pleasures. One might have imagines that with the fear of pregnancy permanently removed, and the unerotic paraphernalia of pills, rubber and ovulation arithmetic no longer necessary, sex would be freed for new and imaginative delights. The opposite has happened. Even those men and women who would normally have no wish to breed apparently need the assurance that they could have a child if they wished. Sex totally divorced from procreation has become almost meaninglessly acrobatic. Woman complain increasingly of what they describe as painful orgasms: spasm achieved but not the pleasure. Pages are devoted to this common phenomenon in the women's magazines. Women, increasingly critical and intolerant of men throughout the 1980s and 1990s , have at last an overwhelming justification for the pent-up resentment of centuries. We who can no longer give them a child cannot even give them pleasure. Sex can still be a mutual comfort; it is seldom a mutual ecstasy. The government-sponsored porn shops, the increasingly explicit literature, all the devices to stimulate desire--none have worked. Men and women still marry, although less frequently, with less ceremony and often with the same sex. People still fall in love, or say that they are in love. There is an almost desperate searching for the one person, preferably younger but at least of one's own age, with whom to face the inevitable decline and decay. We need the comfort of responsive flesh, of hand on hand, lip on lip. But we read the love poems of previous ages with a kind of wonder.

There is so much I could say about that passage, but I'm sure that you can take it apart yourself. The main thing to take away from it (and the book really) is that all the pleasures people insist on having in the bed room including one night stands, premarital sex, gay sex, etc are meaningless without the notion of procreation. The author is saying that sex becomes less of a pleasure and filled with less meaning without being able to conceive children. Even if some people don't agree because perhaps they are beyond their fertile years, I do believe that society as a whole needs to know that we will continue and carry on a legacy. So sex does lose a bit of its meaning without the knowledge that socially we have offspring even if personally we are unable to. And that is a thought/idea that I share with the author. To me, sex looses meaning without the procreation being a part of it.

Also, as you can deduce from the jacket cover inscription, the book has a political dynamic as part of it. Some parts of the book cover the topic of euthanasia as well as dictatorships and human rights. All topics are also very insightful and covered well like the topic of sex and procreation. It's a fantastic read that makes you think. It's definately a book club book and was a book-of-the-month pick.

I promise to get back to work on the Ezzo book. I just got tired of non-fiction and needed a fiction break.

1 comment:

I love to read your thoughts. Thanks for sharing!