Culture Street

Books

The Children Act by Ian McEwan

On September 29, 2014

By Sophia Whitfield
Ian McEwan is known for being both a literary and a bestselling author. His latest novel, The Children Act is a gripping account of the decisions a High Court judge must make on a daily basis.

Fiona and Jack, a couple in their late 50s with an ailing marriage, are grappling with a touch of complacency that has taken over their long partnership. However it is Fiona’s occupation as a British High Court judge that fascinates. Many of the cases she presides over are in part due to marital dysfunction; she works in the family division, reflecting her own current status quo.

Fiona has never had children and seems to live for her work. She is widely respected within her own circle and spends her evenings lost in paperwork. When an urgent case is scheduled, as time is of the essence, Fiona is available to hear it. Adam, a young man a few months shy of his 18th birthday, has leukaemia and the doctors and hospital feel he needs a blood transfusion in the next two days to survive. His parents are Jehovah’s Witnesses and are refusing the treatment for their son for religious reasons. Adam who has been brought up in the Jehovah’s Witness fold adheres to his parent’s wishes. With her marriage in tatters Fiona surprises herself by telling the court she feels she must see Adam herself to ensure the right decision is made. As he is a minor, Fiona must decide for him the best course of action.

The pivotal scenes revolve around Fiona and Adam’s response to the decision she makes. The choices they then both make and the consequences of those choices. Meanwhile in the background Fiona’s marriage goes in and out of the limelight playing second fiddle to the drama being staged in the court room.

The Children Act is an engrossing issues based novel. It is not classic Ian McEwan, less angry and far more objective than we would expect from McEwan, but still fascinating.

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