Books: Heartbeats the Child in Time

by Ian McEwan Houghton Mifflin; 263 pages; $16.95

Ian McEwan's unerring prose and godly powers of awareness have made him one of the best of Britain's youngish novelists, a distinguished group that includes Martin Amis, A.N. Wilson and Julian Barnes. But the 39-year-old author of In Between the Sheets, The Cement Garden and First Love, Last Rites offers something extra, what might be called the McEwan effect. It is the giddy sense that given sufficient time and megabytes, an experience could be parsed into an infinite number of verbal and emotional moments.

The trick is to suggest this possibility with precision and economy. The Child in Time does so...

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