The Children Act
by Ian McEwan


Overview - Fiona Maye is a leading High Court judge who presides over cases in the family court. She is renowned for her fierce intelligence, exactitude, and sensitivity. But her professional success belies private sorrow and domestic strife. There is the lingering regret of her childlessness, and now her marriage of thirty years is in crisis.  Read more...

 
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More About The Children Act by Ian McEwan
 
 
 
Overview
Fiona Maye is a leading High Court judge who presides over cases in the family court. She is renowned for her fierce intelligence, exactitude, and sensitivity. But her professional success belies private sorrow and domestic strife. There is the lingering regret of her childlessness, and now her marriage of thirty years is in crisis.

At the same time, she is called on to try an urgent case: Adam, a beautiful seventeen-year-old boy, is refusing for religious reasons the medical treatment that could save his life, and his devout parents echo his wishes. Time is running out. Should the secular court overrule sincerely expressed faith? In the course of reaching a decision, Fiona visits Adam in the hospital--an encounter that stirs long-buried feelings in her and powerful new emotions in the boy. Her judgment has momentous consequences for them both.


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Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780385539708
  • ISBN-10: 0385539703
  • Publisher: Nan A. Talese
  • Publish Date: September 2014
  • Page Count: 240
  • Dimensions: 8.5 x 6.1 x 0.98 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.93 pounds


Related Categories

Books > Fiction > Legal
Books > Fiction > Psychological

 
BookPage Reviews

A life behind the gavel

Displaying the economical style of his novels Amsterdam and On Chesil Beach, in his 13th novel best-selling author Ian McEwan upends the life of a respected judge with two crises—one personal, one professional—to create a penetrating character study.

Fiona Maye prides herself on being the kind of jurist who “brought reasonableness to hopeless situations” in the Family Proceedings Court of London’s High Court. But what she isn’t prepared to confront on the verge of turning 60 is her husband Jack’s request for permission to engage in an affair with a woman young enough to be his daughter, his self-help remedy for the “slow decline of ardour” in their childless marriage.

With her personal life in turmoil, Fiona is assigned the case of Adam Henry, a 17-year-old Jehovah’s Witness suffering from leukemia who has declined, on religious grounds, the blood transfusion that may save his life. Beginning with Fiona’s visit to Adam’s hospital room, McEwan fashions a completely plausible relationship between these two characters, using it to explore the demands of faith and to portray a young man groping toward maturity.

Though there’s little inherent drama in the daily work of a judge, McEwan succeeds in bringing Fiona to life as she works with integrity and efficiency to decide, in another case, whether to permit the separation of Siamese twins, knowing that doing so will be a death sentence for one of them. The equally fateful choice she faces in weighing whether to order Adam’s transfusion, like much of her work as a judge of family disputes, inevitably is refracted through the lens of her knowledge that she will never have children of her own.

The novel’s other plot line—the intricate marital dance that ensues after Jack’s stunning announcement—is handled with the same assuredness. A scene in which McEwan describes the tension between husband and wife using the almost imperceptible movement of a coffee cup is a masterpiece of dramatic writing.

Despite its subject matter, The Children Act doesn’t simply capitalize on a controversial issue to build artificial suspense. Instead, the pleasures of this quiet novel flow from McEwan’s keen judgment of human character and his ability to translate it so deftly that through his characters we can see ourselves with new eyes.

 

This article was originally published in the September 2014 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

 
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