My first PD James and I only got here because I was searching for a particular actor and came across the name in the IMDB (International Movie DataBase) in the cast of the 2006 movie, Children of Men. That movie starred Julianne Moore, Clive Owen, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Caine. I was looking for some relatively time-consuming, not brain-busting stuff and picked it up. Never once knew until I bought it that the movie was based on a PD James novel.
I loved the premise -- its 2021 and the last child born on planet earth has just died at the age of 26. For reasons unknown and unexplained, men are no longer fertile and the population is declining and as you could guess, things are starting to get out of control.
England, alone among the nations, has resorted to a semi-fascist demagogue - The Warden of England - to maintain civil society and look for solutions. The Warden's cousin, Theo Faron, was once a counselor to The Warden, but now - divorced, middle-aged, childless (a story in its own right), and an Oxford Don without young students is managing barely to put one foot in front of another. The world is getting bleaker, the old are encouraged to suicide, pets and dolls are revered, and hope is a desperately declining commodity.
Theo gets involved in a slap-dash though very "serious" group of dissidents who want Theo to use his connections to get an audience with his cousin, The Warden. Like all fanatics, they believe the logic of their argument will win the day if they just get a chance to be heard. Theo knows better, but is drawn in by the woman who first approaches him about the group of revolutionaries.
Couple of things. First, if you have seen the movie, you will not completely recognize the book. In fact, the movie is considerably darker and more hopeless than the book and the end messaging is nothing of what PD James tried to convey in the novel (as I remember the movie). Second, this is definitely a British novel by a British writer. If you are not used to it - the level of detail, the observations and focus on British custom, class, and society, it can be a bit much. Get over that - because this book packs an interesting punch despite the awfully slow start. You saw the movie...now read the book.