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