BOOK REVIEW: The Children Act by Ian McEwan

Fiona Maye, a leading High Court Judge, renowned for her fierce intelligence and sensitivity, is called on to try an urgent case. For religious reasons, a seventeen-year old boy is refusing the medical treatment that could save his life, Time is running out.
She visits the boy in hospital- an encounter which stirs long-buried feelings in her and powerful new emotions in the boy. But it is Fiona who must ultimately decide whether he lives or dies and her judgement will have momentous consequences for them both. 

Publisher: Vintage Books
Pages: 213

I bought this book a while back but decided to save it for my holiday so that I could really focus on it. At 213 pages, it is reasonably short but I have very much enjoyed taking my time with it and Ian McEwan gives you so much to think about. Ashamedly this is my first Ian McEwan book but I am pretty certain that he's going to become a firm favourite.
Fiona Maye is a deeply respected High Court judge; she is called on to try the case of a seventeen-year old boy, Adam Henry whose family is refusing treatment for Leukaemia as it would involve blood transfusions which are forbidden within their religion. Fiona goes to visit the dangerously ill boy in hospital to hear his side of the story and explain her role and thinking on the matter. This visit, quite unprecedented affects Adam and Fiona in very different and unexpected ways and the consequences of their discussion are felt long after the case has been closed. During this time, Fiona's marriage is in big trouble; whilst making momentous decisions about other people's lives, her own seems to be falling apart.
The Children Act is one of the most interesting books I have read, there was so much to learn and think about; the story and the characters were extremely powerful and I feel they will stay with me for a long time.
Considering the book is so short, Ian McEwan explores so many different avenues; religion, morality, love, choice, infidelity, ambition and desire. Fiona Maye is an extraordinary character; we know that she is highly intelligent from the job that she does yet she is also clearly human. Even though she is allowed to sit and pass judgement on other people's lives and choices, her life is far from perfect, a fact that she is very much aware of. I felt that Fiona's character raised so many questions in my mind. How can she truly stop her own personal life from affecting her professional judgement of Adam's case?  I also think that it is so important that Fiona is a woman; she makes is abundantly clear that she chose her career over children. Even in this day and age it is very difficult for women to have it all, it appears that women have to sacrifice more than men if they want to climb to the top of the ladder. Would Fiona's thinking on Adam's case have been different if she had children of her own?
The Children Act contains a lot of information on the legal system and I thought that it was fascinating. Every day people have their lives affected by people like Fiona, passing judgement on their actions. That is a huge responsibility we are placing on individuals, can they be right all the time?
The Children Act was an absorbing, fascinating and powerful read. Ian McEwan's writing style is exemplary and I highly recommend this remarkable book.

1 comment:

Nadia A said...

Wow! This one sounds fantastic! I definitely need to get my hands on it ASAP. I've only read one McEwan novel (Atonement) and didn't really like it, but I've always wanted to give his work another chance. Sounds like this book is the one to go with. Great post!!

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