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The Children Act Bets On...

The Children Act

September 2014

In THE CHILDREN ACT by Ian McEwan, Fiona Maye is a High Court judge in London presiding over cases in family court. She approaches the families that she advocates on behalf of with her mind wide open, giving strong thought to her sensitivities to culture and religion as well as the law. Her attentiveness to all sides of the issues before her --- and her meticulous attention to her cases --- consumes her on many levels.

She’s literally “on call” to the people at every hour, pulled away at a moment’s notice for discussion of tough decisions. One particular case grabs her and stays with her even after her decision is made. And it brings Fiona to examine her own life and her childlessness, which is something that gives her pause.

As I read, I found myself thinking more about the pressure on our own judges and justices. And about the choices that people make --- and then need to live with.

Fiona also is grappling with issues in her own marriage, which give her pause to think not just about the future, but also about the past. As the book opened, I thought it was the story of a marriage coming undone with Fiona’s husband’s shocking words, but it ended up being so much more. McEwan’s look at a long marriage punctuates the story as an undercurrent, setting the challenges of a marriage against the pulse of real life.  

It’s a slim novel, just 240 pages, but I found myself slowing to read and re-read paragraphs as I was absorbed in the language and the beauty of the writing as much as I was in the story. Fiona’s character is so well done, and the story is tight and well-constructed. I loved that it was compact as so much is overwritten these days and bloated. Here every word mattered. I can see this being hugely popular with book groups as there is so much to discuss; I envision the commentary flying back and forth.

The Children Act
by Ian McEwan

  • Publication Date: April 28, 2015
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor
  • ISBN-10: 110187287X
  • ISBN-13: 9781101872871