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Stephen Lewis' three-year-old daughter is snatched from a supermarket. Following several months of frantic searching, Stephen, a British writer of children's books, breaks down. His wife leaves him, and his single activity is his attendance at the weekly meetings of a subcommittee of the Official Commission on Child Care. But this is not really a missing-child novel. It is more about the relationship between childhood and adulthood and our search for the child in us all. This theme is manifest in the absurd and ultimately useless work of the commission, in a vision Stephen has of his parents before their marriage, and in the demise of Stephen's best friend a public figure within whom the adult side and the child side are at war. Beautifully written, this novel is at once sad, wryly humorous, and full of hope. McEwan also wrote The Comfort of Strangers (Booklist 77:1292 Je 1 81) and The Cement Garden (75:27 S 1 78). MEQ. [OCLC] 87-8603

Publishers Weekly
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A sense of loss pervades this fine, provocative new novel by the author of The Comfort of Strangers. The protagonist, Stephen Lewis, a successful author of children's books, is introduced to us in a scene more frightening than any from a horror novel: while he is shopping with Kate, his three-year-old daughter, the child is kidnapped. Stephen's mounting terror as he combs the store for Katetrying in vain to recall the face of the dark-clad stranger he glimpsed behind themis palpable. As the story moves forward, it focuses not only on Stephen's search for his daughter, but also on his attempts to come to terms with his loss and the likely collapse of his marriage to Julie, a musician. Woven through the narrative is a subplot that deals with childhood and loss of a different sort. It is the innocence of youth that Stephen's friend and former editor, Charles Darke, longs for and ultimately recaptures at a terrible price. This is a beautifully rendered, very disturbing novel. First serial to Esquire. (September 29) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal
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There are actually several childen in McEwan's new novel: Stephen Lewis's kidnapped daughter; the barefoot boy his friend Charles tries (with fatal results) to become; the hypothetical child under study by the Official Commission on Child Care, on one of whose subcommittees Stephen sits. And there are several fictional modes at work, ranging from a realistic account of wrenching personal loss to a satire on bureaucracy. Unfortunately these varying aspects undercut rather than reinforce one another, and the result is a muddle. English writer McEwan made his name with the scarifying stories in First Love, Last Rites ( LJ 6/15/75). Despite a happy ending, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that here he's working in an uncongenial genre. Grove Koger, Boise P.L., Id. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.