Last Updated on March 11, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 328
The novel The Child in Time by Ian McEwan is a heartbreaking story about a family who has lost their child as they desperately try to find her and bring her kidnapper to justice. The story takes place several years after her disappearance, with much of the fervor of the search dissipated and the characters settled into a routine of dissatisfaction and isolation.
Stephen Lewis is the protagonist. He is a children's book author who has published several books, but he claims that he stumbled into the profession by accident. Two years prior to the events of the novel, his daughter is kidnapped from under his nose at a supermarket. His purpose in life has since been to try and find her and to act as a member of a committee on childcare. He has turned to drinking and drowning his sorrows with mindless television (when he is not working with the committee or speaking with his few remaining friends).
Julie Lewis is Stephen's estranged wife. After Kate's disappearance, Julie became reclusive and isolated, wallowing in her heartbreak and pain. She has moved away from the house she shared with Stephen and now lives alone, choosing not to see anyone. Stephen occasionally visits, but the pain between them is palpable, so they rarely see one another.
Charles Darke is a close family friend of Stephen and Julie. He was instrumental in getting Stephen's first work published, but has since become a member of the Prime Minister's cabinet. He eventually resigns from the cabinet and commits suicide, shocking his family and friends.
Thelma Darke is Charles's wife and a quantum physicist. She and Stephen speak at length about the nature of time and space and whether or not there is such a thing as time travel. Her ideas are on the fringe of science, and Stephen writes them off as such, but they do give him some faint hope during his quest for his daughter.