‘The Children Act’ by Ian McEwan

The Children ActstarstarstarstarFiona Maye is a High Court judge. She presides in family court with a fierce loyalty and intelligence. She is an accomplished pianist. Her life has been filled with hard work and a passion for her job and she now finds herself at a middle aged crossroads. She has a lingering regret about the reasons for her own childlessness and now her marriage of thirty years is falling apart.

At this time she is called on to try an urgent life-or-death case. A 17 year old boy needs a blood transfusion to live, but his religion and his devout parents are against it. Time is running out. Should the court overrule? In her dedication she goes to visit the boy, to make sure he understands what is going on. Her judgement turns out to have momentous consequences for them both.

In order to avoid spoilers I cannot reveal the verdict or the unexpected twist her decision has on the case, except to say that the story is really much more about the judge’s personal life than the case itself. But that’s what I found interesting. It wasn’t just about the one case, albeit it pivotal, but a view into several interesting cases and a glimpse into the world of a High Court judge.

For McEwan fans, this is once again a beautifully mastered work. Not everyone appreciates his writing style, but I have tremendous respect for how this author captures nuance in relationships and how his writing is at once compelling and exquisite. With relatively few words he deftly deals with the complexity of issues while creating empathy for the characters.

Different from his master work Atonement and the comic Solar, ‘The Children Act’ reminded me of Saturday and On Chesil Beach. Even though it is rather short, more like a novella, it covers a lot of ground. The next McEwan I want to read is the espionage novel Sweet Tooth which I somehow missed last year.

2 responses to “‘The Children Act’ by Ian McEwan

  1. Thanks for this review. I too find the writing absolutely exquisite. I think this book helped me understand a bit better and for the first time the role of a judge — responsibilities, work load, impact on personal life. I was deeply impressed by the author’s research into the subject at hand. I’d agree that this book would close in style and especially mood to On Chesil Beach. For me this books wasn’t a page turner or a favorite read, but I think it will stay with me for a long time. Almost a must read in the wake of the case just in the courts in the past few weeks http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/native-mom-who-pulled-daughter-out-of-chemo-wants-their-names-used/article21715478/

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