Book Review: THE CHILDREN ACT

Yes, it's been very quiet around here lately. Mostly because I gathered up family, hopped on a couple of airplanes, and jetted off to Tuscany for a bit. And while I did get myself one of those fancy-schmancy wireless internet pocket devices while we were driving around the Italian countryside and had complete blogging access to the interwebz, I'll be honest....I just didn't feel like it.

we had the Mr. with us, too, but he was the official photographer


Cinque Terre
balcony where the reading got done

In fact, I wasn't all that bookish at all throughout our travels. Aside from enjoying the Tuscan sunrise with my coffee and Ian McEwan's The Children Act, I wasn't voraciously plowing through books. Perhaps there was something about the northern Italian countryside that encouraged me to slow down and read McEwan's new novel languidly. The story, blurbed as the conflict a family judge experiences deciding a case in which a minor child - a Jehovah's Witness - wishes to refuse a lifesaving blood transfusion, actually turned out to be a fascinating and insightful character study of London judge Fiona Maye who is facing her own person crises as she carries on with her professional duties in family court. I found myself exceedingly drawn to Fiona: a married career woman who has, consciously or not, given up children of her own for a very successful career in law. The reader, like Fiona herself, can't help but wonder whether this choice has in any way contributed to her husband's recent abrupt announcement that without a dramatic and immediate change in their marital relations, he intends to embark upon an affair with another, and of course younger, woman.



Fiona's introspection is magnificent as it is interwoven with her current case of a young man just shy of legal adulthood who requires a blood transfusion to live but is refusing it on the grounds of his religion. Fiona makes her decision in the case rather early in the novel and the rest of narrative tells the story of the (shocking) repercussions of her ruling. It is this perspective that propels the novel from merely good to excellent, reminding everyone why McEwan is so very admired in his field. All of this he does in a mere 224 pages. Is The Children Act his best work? I wouldn't go that far, but I will say it is an admirable, thought-provoking piece to add to his canon. 

And of course I should admit that McEwan's poke at longer novels being in sore need of editing probably got my attention as well. As much as I love a good long novel, I must admit that he is correct: very few are well-written enough to justify their length. You can read his controversial thoughts on the matter here.

I'll be talking a little bit more about Italy, the drama that occurred in the book world while I was away, and some changes that are going to be made to this blog as a result of all this as the week goes on. In the meanwhile, I hope everyone has been reading some good stuff while I've been away (readathon, anyone?) and getting ready for Halloween. What great books have I been missing?

10 comments:

  1. What? You were in Italy and you didn't feel like blogging?! ;)

    I've never read Ian McEwan but everything I hear screams "fix that!!"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha! He's been hit and miss for me, to be honest. Some stuff has been wow and others I've just tossed. But one thing I'll give him: he's always short and sweet about it, God love him. :) And I have to admit, I've been saving Atonement for some special day (I have no idea what special day that actually is, mind you, just saving it....that means I'll probably die without reading the damn thing. Gah.). We should read Atonement sometime. Again, short short short so it's got that going for it. Oh, and all those awards, too.

      Delete
  2. I love McEwan. Some books I love more than others. I had a copy of this one but the library sent me the wrong version again so I had to return it. Kindle versions not epub people!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Down with EPUB! Shall we start a movement? A Twitter campaign? Hashtag #NoEPUB? Okay, that just doesn't have the same ring to it, does it. Damn.

      Delete
  3. Looking forward to this one! I love me some (short) McEwan.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Given your present circumstances, I think you might get more of a kick out of this one than the author intended. Ha. (Get well soon, my friend!)

      Delete
  4. I'm cackling at Monika's comment. I don't think I'd feel like blogging if I was in Tuscany either. I think I'd be eating my weight in food and taking in the sights. LOL

    I haven't read any McEwan, much to Andi's chagrin!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha. I'm not a McEwan expert by any means. I defer to Andi for that. I'm gong to force the rest of us to read Atonement one of these days, I swear. :P

      Delete
  5. Not read him yet. One of the rare few who haven't

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, I think there are more out there who haven't read him than you would think. Enough to get a group together to read Atonement.....AHEM.....

      Delete

Fire away!