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The Children Act by Ian McEwan
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The Children Act (2014)

by Ian McEwan

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2,0221464,913 (3.84)158

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English (141)  Spanish (4)  German (3)  Dutch (2)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (151)
Showing 1-5 of 141 (next | show all)
A fast read, enjoyable on the whole, obviously well researched with regard to legal cases but I did think that more could have been made of Adam's character to make the novel more emotionally fulfilling, particularly as Fiona and her husband come across as somewhat emotionally lacking. Fiona largely because she has had to learn to divorce herself from her emotions in her career as a high court judge. In one telling point of the novel her husband returns after she has had the locks changed and she accepts him back. They seem to just carry on as before. Her husband well, he just doesn't seem a particularly well rounded character to me. I didn't get a very full picture of who he was. I reckon Ian McEwan is trying to make the point that neither of them are particularly appealing characters, which is okay, because people aren't always warm, caring creatures, but in my opinion Adam had the potential to lift the novel from a 4 star to a 5 star read, so that was a bit of a disappointment.

BIT of a SPOILER:

When Fiona travels to Newcastle, (this city represents her teenage freedom) she acts in a way that seems out of keeping with the Fiona in the rest of the book. I see what Ian McEwan is trying to achieve, (in returning to Newcastle for a brief moment she is thrown back in time to her youth,) and the kiss represents that teenage abandon. But still it seems a bit odd, like an exclamation mark in the midst of it all!

For me the denouement fizzled out a bit because Adam isn't a strong enough character to engage the reader's emotions particularly when Fiona is the queen of carrying on.

Notable quotes:

"We've arrived Fiona. I've become your brother. It's cosy and sweet and I love you, but before I drop dead, I want one passionate affair."

"But she became squeamish about bodies, barely able to look at her own or Jack's without feeling repelled. "

"A professional life spent above the affray, advising then judging, loftily commenting in private on the viciousness and absurdity of divorcing couples, and now she was down there with the rest, swimming with the desolate tide."
( )
  marjorie.mallon | Mar 27, 2019 |
Frustratingly brief. It's good and meaty and challenging... but then it's over. ( )
  asxz | Mar 13, 2019 |
Fiona Maye has had a long and successful career as a High Court judge. She works in the Family Division, deciding what is best for children in messy divorce cases and matters of religion. Professionally, Fiona is “almost ironic, almost warm,” and she is respected for striking a balance between compassion and distance, understanding and objectivity. But after years of parents “dazed to find themselves in vicious combat with the one they once loved” and children used as “bargaining chips,” Fiona has become ever so slightly disillusioned.

Fiona’s last case, involving conjoined twins born to Catholic parents, has left her exhausted. One evening, she is blindsided by her husband’s announcement that he wants to have one last love affair before it’s too late. Jack informs Fiona that they have not had sex “for seven weeks and a day,” and that they act more like siblings than husband and wife. He doesn’t want a divorce; he just wants her blessing before he proceeds. Jack thinks he is being reasonable and candid. Unsurprisingly, Fiona disagrees and asks him to leave.

Hurt and angry, Fiona moves on to her next case, that of a teenaged Jehovah’s Witness refusing a potentially life-saving blood transfusion. Adam is just three months shy of turning 18, and he insists that his choice is his own, unaffected by his parents or religious community. His doctors want to move forward with the operation against his wishes. Fiona, perhaps eager for a distraction, makes an unusual visit to the hospital. She finds Adam to be “lovely,” a true Romantic in the tradition of John Keats. Will Fiona understand what is best for this boy, and will she make the right decision?

John le Carré once wrote that spies are mistakenly thought of as “priests, saints, and martyrs.” That belief could also apply to judges, doctors, or anyone with a specialized and/or powerful profession. Such people do not magically arrive at the right answer but are influenced by their beliefs, education, history, and circumstances. And sometimes they screw up. Ian McEwan explores this by drawing an intimate portrait of an older woman with all her thoughts, memories, and emotions. The Children Act is so intently focused, so self-contained, that despite being 221 pages it feels much more like a short story. ( )
  doryfish | Mar 6, 2019 |
An older, female judge struggles withher relationship with her husband and with a young man whose life she impacted by her ruling. ( )
  ghefferon | Feb 27, 2019 |
A long time ago when I was bored brainless by teaching in a complacent, over-privileged school, I started a law degree part-time as an escape route. But before long I realised that even though I loved studying law, I didn’t want to spend my working days with other lawyers and I didn’t want to work in academia. A chance conversation with a writer was the catalyst for me to chuck the law degree, and shortly afterwards fate intervened. I was promoted to a school where I felt I could actually achieve something purposeful with my career.
I never regretted my decision but I still like the intellectual effort of untangling the principles of law, and that is why I really liked Ian McEwen’s The Children Act. It’s a book that humanises the law and the people who apply it, defying the ease with which John Smith and the tabloids decry the law ‘as an ass’.
In this novel, a High Court judge has to make a difficult decision while her long marriage is falling apart. She is sixty, and has devoted her life to her career, but now her husband wants to have an affair. Outraged, she watches him go and changes the locks. All credit to her, she does not proceed at work on auto-pilot, but instead applies her mind to the very difficult legal problem before her.
The principle upon which her decision must rest is clear: McEwen quotes the relevant section at the start of the book:
When a court determines any question with respect to … the upbringing of a child … the child’s welfare shall be the court’s paramount consideration.
Section 1(a), the Children’s Act (1989)
Our Australian Family Courts work under an identical principle. It seems so obvious, and easy…

To read the rest of my review please visit https://anzlitlovers.com/2019/02/05/the-children-act-by-ian-mcewan/ ( )
  anzlitlovers | Feb 4, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 141 (next | show all)
Ian McEwan, master of obsession, fumbles with his latest, The Children Act
 
McEwan, always a smart, engaging writer, here takes more than one familiar situation and creates at every turn something new and emotionally rewarding in a way he hasn’t done so well since On Chesil Beach (2007).
added by Nickelini | editKirkus Reviews (Sep 9, 2014)
 
Although thrillingly close to the child within us, McEwan nonetheless writes for, and about, the grown-ups. In a climate that breeds juvenile cynicism, we more than ever need his adult art.
 

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Ian McEwanprimary authorall editionscalculated
Torrescasana, AlbertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
'When a court determines any question with respect to...the upbringing of a child...the child's welfare shall be the court's paramount consideration.'

Section 1(a) The Children Act (1989)
Dedication
To Ray Dolan
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London. Trinity term one week old.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Fiona Maye is a leading High Court judge, presiding over cases in the family court. She is renowned for her fierce intelligence, exactitude and sensitivity. But her professional success belies a private sorrow and domestic strife. There is a 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: for religious reasons, a beautiful seventeen-year-old boy, Adam, is refusing medical treatment that could save his life, and his devout parents share his wishes. Time is running out. Should the secular court overrule sincerely held faith? In the course of reaching a decision Fiona visits Adam in hospital - an encounter which 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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"Fiona Maye is a High Court judge in London presiding over cases in family court. She is fiercely intelligent, well respected, and deeply immersed in the nuances of her particular field of law. Often the outcome of a case seems simple from the outside, the course of action to ensure a child's welfare obvious. But the law requires more rigor than mere pragmatism, and Fiona is expert in considering the sensitivities of culture and religion when handing down her verdicts. But Fiona's professional success belies domestic strife. Her husband, Jack, asks her to consider an open marriage and, after an argument, moves out of their house. His departure leaves her adrift, wondering whether it was not love she had lost so much as a modern form of respectability; whether it was not contempt and ostracism she really fears. She decides to throw herself into her work, especially a complex case involving a seventeen-year-old boy whose parents will not permit a lifesaving blood transfusion because it conflicts with their beliefs as Jehovah's Witnesses. But Jack doesn't leave her thoughts, and the pressure to resolve the case--as well as her crumbling marriage--tests Fiona in ways that will keep readers thoroughly enthralled until the last stunning page"--… (more)

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