Monday, September 12, 2005

50 Book Challenge #47: The Fifth Child

Since I very much enjoyed Lionel Shriver's latest, I took the advice of some MeFites and picked up The Fifth Child, a book with a similar theme. It is much shorter and has a less sympathetic protagonist, but it also deals with a child who is seemingly bad since birth who shatters the family to which he is born. Ben is the fifth child of two traditionalist Britons who want nothing more than a large, happy home. However, unlike the sullen yet sly Kevin, Ben is troll-like and alien, reminding me of the ominous figures from other late 1970s & early 1980s horror novels by Ramsey Campbell, et al. The vaguely supernatural suggestion that Ben is something other than human--a throwback to some earlier tribe or folk--gives the book far less sociological impact than the relentlessly realistic Shriver book and dates the book in an even more obvious way than does the narrowly drawn setting; the whole exercise made me think of a cross between English country tales and Rosemary's Baby. Lessing's name gets thrown about a fair amount, so I may try another of her books, but this one was only so-so.
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