From the inexhaustible imagination of Ian McEwan—a master of contemporary fiction and author of the Booker Prize-winning national bestseller Amsterdam—an enchanting work of fiction that appeals equally to children and adults.

First published in England as a children’s book, The Daydreamer marks a delightful foray by one of our greatest novelists into a new fictional domain. In these seven exquisitely interlinked episodes, the grown-up protagonist Peter Fortune reveals the secret journeys, metamorphoses, and adventures of his childhood. Living somewhere between dream and reality, Peter experiences fantastical transformations: he swaps bodies with the wise old family cat; exchanges existences with a cranky infant; encounters a very bad doll who has come to life and is out for revenge; and rummages through a kitchen drawer filled with useless objects to discover some not-so-useless cream that actually makes people vanish. Finally, he wakes up as an eleven-year-old inside a grown-up body and embarks on the truly fantastic adventure of falling in love. Moving, dreamlike, and extraordinary, The Daydreamer marks yet another imaginative departure for Ian McEwan, and one that adds new breadth to his body of work.

“A shivery, prickly joy.”—The Globe and Mail

“A classic.” —The Financial Post

“Mr. McEwan at his best.” —The New York Times Book Review
© Bastian Schweitzer / © Diogenes Verlag
IAN MCEWAN is the critically acclaimed author of seventeen novels and two short story collections. His first published work, a collection of short stories, First Love, Last Rites, won the Somerset Maugham Award. His novels include The Child in Time, which won the 1987 Whitbread Novel of the Year Award; The Cement Garden; Enduring Love; Amsterdam, which won the 1998 Booker Prize; Atonement; Saturday; On Chesil Beach; Solar; Sweet Tooth; The Children Act; Nutshell; and Machines Like Me, which was a number-one bestseller. Atonement, Enduring Love, The Children Act and On Chesil Beach have all been adapted for the big screen.

ianmcewan.com View titles by Ian McEwan
As each chapter of The Daydreamer was completed, I read it aloud to my children.  The arrangement was simple.  They got the latest installment of what we called the 'Peter stories', and I took away some useful editorial content.  This pleasant, almost ritualistic exchange in turn affected the writing itself, in that I became more than usually attentive to the sound of an adult voice speaking each sentence.  This adult was not, or not simply, me.  Alone in my study, I read aloud passages to an imaginary child (not quite, or not only, one of mine) on behalf of this imaginary adult.  Ear and tongue, I wanted to please them both.

The child's needs I thought I knew instinctively: a good tale above all, a sympathetic hero, villains yes, but not all the time because they are too simplifying, clarity in openings, twists in the middle, and satisfying outcomes that were not always happy.  For the adult I felt little more than vague sympathy.  We all love the idea of bedtime stories -- the fresh minted breath, the wide and trustful eyes, the hot water bottle baking down among the clean linen, the sleepy glowing covenant -- and who would not have the scene carved upon his headstone?  But do adults really like children's literature?  I've always thought the entusiasm was a little overstated, even desperate.  'Swallows and Amazons? Beatrix Potter? Marvellous books!'  Do we really mean it, do we really still enjoy them, or are we speaking up for, and keeping the lines open to, our lost, nearly forgotten selves?  When exactly did you last curl up alone with The Swiss Family Robinson?

What we like about children's books is our children's pleasure in them, and this is less to do with literature and more to do with love.  Early on in writing and reading aloud The Daydreamer I began to think it might be better to forget about our mighty tradition of children's literature and to write a book for adults about a child in a language that children could understand.  In the century of Hemingway and Calvino simple prose need not deter the sophisticated reader.  I hoped the subject matter -- the imagination itself -- was one in which anyone who picks up a book has a stake.  Similarly, transformation has been a theme, almost an obsession, in all literatures.  The Daydreamer was published in an illustrated edition for children in Britain and the United States, and in a more sober adult form in various other countries.  There was once a tradition by which authors dedicate their books to the fates, rather in the manner of a parent sending a child out into the world. 'Goe littel booke...'  this one may well settle down after all for a quiet life in a corner of a children's library, or die in oblivion, but for the moment I'm still hoping it might give some pleasure all round.

Ian McEwan
1995
  • WINNER
    School Library Journal Best Books of the Year - Adult
“Imaginative and sparkling, not a page should be missed.” —San Diego Union-Tribune

“As far-fetched and funny as anything by Roald Dahl.” —Vogue

“Combines wit and invention with a sense of the natural order being overturned.” —The Washington Post Book World

“Peter’s fantasy life is richer than anybody’s since Walter Mitty.” —The Philadelphia Inquirer

“Brilliant . . . the quality of imagination at play here is something special.” —The Times Educational Supplement (London)

About

From the inexhaustible imagination of Ian McEwan—a master of contemporary fiction and author of the Booker Prize-winning national bestseller Amsterdam—an enchanting work of fiction that appeals equally to children and adults.

First published in England as a children’s book, The Daydreamer marks a delightful foray by one of our greatest novelists into a new fictional domain. In these seven exquisitely interlinked episodes, the grown-up protagonist Peter Fortune reveals the secret journeys, metamorphoses, and adventures of his childhood. Living somewhere between dream and reality, Peter experiences fantastical transformations: he swaps bodies with the wise old family cat; exchanges existences with a cranky infant; encounters a very bad doll who has come to life and is out for revenge; and rummages through a kitchen drawer filled with useless objects to discover some not-so-useless cream that actually makes people vanish. Finally, he wakes up as an eleven-year-old inside a grown-up body and embarks on the truly fantastic adventure of falling in love. Moving, dreamlike, and extraordinary, The Daydreamer marks yet another imaginative departure for Ian McEwan, and one that adds new breadth to his body of work.

“A shivery, prickly joy.”—The Globe and Mail

“A classic.” —The Financial Post

“Mr. McEwan at his best.” —The New York Times Book Review

Author

© Bastian Schweitzer / © Diogenes Verlag
IAN MCEWAN is the critically acclaimed author of seventeen novels and two short story collections. His first published work, a collection of short stories, First Love, Last Rites, won the Somerset Maugham Award. His novels include The Child in Time, which won the 1987 Whitbread Novel of the Year Award; The Cement Garden; Enduring Love; Amsterdam, which won the 1998 Booker Prize; Atonement; Saturday; On Chesil Beach; Solar; Sweet Tooth; The Children Act; Nutshell; and Machines Like Me, which was a number-one bestseller. Atonement, Enduring Love, The Children Act and On Chesil Beach have all been adapted for the big screen.

ianmcewan.com View titles by Ian McEwan

Excerpt

As each chapter of The Daydreamer was completed, I read it aloud to my children.  The arrangement was simple.  They got the latest installment of what we called the 'Peter stories', and I took away some useful editorial content.  This pleasant, almost ritualistic exchange in turn affected the writing itself, in that I became more than usually attentive to the sound of an adult voice speaking each sentence.  This adult was not, or not simply, me.  Alone in my study, I read aloud passages to an imaginary child (not quite, or not only, one of mine) on behalf of this imaginary adult.  Ear and tongue, I wanted to please them both.

The child's needs I thought I knew instinctively: a good tale above all, a sympathetic hero, villains yes, but not all the time because they are too simplifying, clarity in openings, twists in the middle, and satisfying outcomes that were not always happy.  For the adult I felt little more than vague sympathy.  We all love the idea of bedtime stories -- the fresh minted breath, the wide and trustful eyes, the hot water bottle baking down among the clean linen, the sleepy glowing covenant -- and who would not have the scene carved upon his headstone?  But do adults really like children's literature?  I've always thought the entusiasm was a little overstated, even desperate.  'Swallows and Amazons? Beatrix Potter? Marvellous books!'  Do we really mean it, do we really still enjoy them, or are we speaking up for, and keeping the lines open to, our lost, nearly forgotten selves?  When exactly did you last curl up alone with The Swiss Family Robinson?

What we like about children's books is our children's pleasure in them, and this is less to do with literature and more to do with love.  Early on in writing and reading aloud The Daydreamer I began to think it might be better to forget about our mighty tradition of children's literature and to write a book for adults about a child in a language that children could understand.  In the century of Hemingway and Calvino simple prose need not deter the sophisticated reader.  I hoped the subject matter -- the imagination itself -- was one in which anyone who picks up a book has a stake.  Similarly, transformation has been a theme, almost an obsession, in all literatures.  The Daydreamer was published in an illustrated edition for children in Britain and the United States, and in a more sober adult form in various other countries.  There was once a tradition by which authors dedicate their books to the fates, rather in the manner of a parent sending a child out into the world. 'Goe littel booke...'  this one may well settle down after all for a quiet life in a corner of a children's library, or die in oblivion, but for the moment I'm still hoping it might give some pleasure all round.

Ian McEwan
1995

Awards

  • WINNER
    School Library Journal Best Books of the Year - Adult

Praise

“Imaginative and sparkling, not a page should be missed.” —San Diego Union-Tribune

“As far-fetched and funny as anything by Roald Dahl.” —Vogue

“Combines wit and invention with a sense of the natural order being overturned.” —The Washington Post Book World

“Peter’s fantasy life is richer than anybody’s since Walter Mitty.” —The Philadelphia Inquirer

“Brilliant . . . the quality of imagination at play here is something special.” —The Times Educational Supplement (London)

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