In Midnight’s Children (1981), Salman Rushdie hitched the birth of his narrator Saleem Sinai to the moment of Indian independence (perhaps in imitation of Soviet ‘children of the revolution’ like the novelist Alexander Solzhenitsyn, born in the wake of October 1917). There is no such political logic to Barker’s character Liza Wright, née Jarrett, being front page news as ‘the Century’s Daughter’. The German director Edgar Reitz, in a series of films for West German television, Heimat — Eine deutsche Chronik (first broadcast in the UK in 1984), gave his matriarch Maria Simon the same 1900 birth date. Reitz’s narrative spans the years 1919–82 so, like Barker’s, it is a story of a national century from a family or personal perspective. The start of the century birth date seems freighted with symbolism, but its significance is also numerological superstition, connected strangely with public propaganda for an ideology of progress (Thomas Hardy’s poem ‘The Darkling Thrush’, published in a national newspaper on the eve of Liza’s fictional birth, was an ironic riposte to the boosterish optimism with which some greeted the new century in the last days of Victoria’s reign). In this context, the author’s change of title to Liza’s England makes sense.
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