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The Children Act by Ian McEwan

act

THE STORY
Fiona Maye is a High Court judge in the London Family Court, a distinguished professional and well known for having a cool head. That is until her husband, Jack, announces that he is about to start an affair with a younger woman. Jack has many reasons why he is entitled to this affair and why she should give him her blessing. Fiona is understandably shocked and humiliated, lashing out at Jack and letting him walk out of their home. She is relieved to be pulled away from this devastating blow by an emergency hearing for a teenage boy who is refusing a life-saving blood transfusion because his family is Jehovah’s Witness. With time of the essence, Fiona diligently turns her focus to the case and hears both sides, but makes a last-minute decision to visit the boy in person. Adam, the sick teenage boy, is as greatly affected by the visit as Fiona. She is taken with his youth, talent and obvious potential, while Adam is equally smitten with Fiona, wanting to both please and impress her. Fiona rules confidently on the controversial case, but has set into motion a breakdown between her personal and public life that will have tragic consequences.

THE GOOD
The Children Act is a tightly written novel about a woman who appears strong and capable on the outside, but is a self-doubting mess on the inside. I found it fascinating to read Fiona’s narration as she tries to keep it together, but is so tangled up in the confusing web of her emotions. This is a woman who has always been in control and is desperate to hold onto it.

THE BAD
While the plot concerning Adam and the controversial court case is suspenseful, ultimately there are no major twists or turns in The Children Act. If anything, I think readers will predict the story’s outcome many, many chapters before its end. I sure did.

CONCLUSION
I had the impression The Children Act was going to explore the legal and moral issues of Adam’s case and what is or is not Fiona’s responsibility to Adam after their personal connection. However, the book only touches on these issues and is chiefly centered on Fiona’s neurosis, which I didn’t mind; I just thought Ian McEwan was going to go much deeper in what is obviously a very well-researched story. Although I’ve read that he has written much better stories than The Children Act, I really enjoyed my first Ian McEwan’s novel.

3/5 Stars

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17 comments on “The Children Act by Ian McEwan

  1. heavenali
    October 8, 2014

    I have seen mixed reports of this, but I still want to read it.

    Like

    • ebookclassics
      October 9, 2014

      I thought this book was very well-written and had a gripping storyline. What other Ian McEwan books have you read?

      Like

      • heavenali
        October 9, 2014

        I have read several. Amsterdam, On Chesil Beach, Saturday, Child of Time, Atonement, and Enduring Love.

        Like

  2. Naomi
    October 8, 2014

    Ok, this is good to know. I have this on hold at the library, because I thought it would be about the family’s religion and the moral and legal implications of the case. But… I can also handle reading a novel about a woman who is losing it. Either one sounds good to me.

    I have read two other books by him. Atonement is very good, but so so so maddening!! I refuse to watch the movie. And, On Chesil Beach was kind of unique, I thought, about a couple in the 60s on their wedding night- the thoughts going through each of their minds as the night goes on.

    Like

    • ebookclassics
      October 9, 2014

      I really enjoyed this book and can’t wait to hear what you think. Ooh, I’m curious to know what was so infuriating about Atonement. It’s the probably the next book I would like to read of Ian McEwan’s work. I like the premise for Chesil Beach because I would like to know what they were thinking!

      Like

      • Naomi
        October 9, 2014

        Atonement is probably the next one you should read, but it was very interesting reading the character’s thoughts in Chesil Beach. That was a short one, too. I would be interested to hear whether or not you become as infuriated as I did during Atonement.

        Like

  3. kmn04books
    October 8, 2014

    Ooh, so well timed! I just finished this book last night. I think you’re right that there weren’t major surprises in the book (I predicted what would happen to Adam) but, that being said, I still felt very affected by his outcome so emotionally, I thought that was done well in that aspect.

    Like

    • ebookclassics
      October 9, 2014

      I agree that even though the ending was predictable, the outcome was emotionally stirring. Do you think you will try reading another one of his books?

      Like

      • kmn04books
        October 9, 2014

        I wouldn’t be against it, but I have so much to read that I’m not sure how soon I’ll be able to! How about you?

        Like

        • ebookclassics
          October 10, 2014

          I know! The never ending book list … I may try to get to Atonement at some point.

          Like

  4. Cecilia
    October 9, 2014

    This sounds great. I have Atonement on my shelf but I also haven’t read any Ian McEwan yet. I’m wondering if I should start with this one and save Atonement for later…

    Like

    • ebookclassics
      October 9, 2014

      I think The Children Act is good, but you may be better off starting with Atonement since it’s so popular and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

      Like

  5. citygirlscapes
    October 9, 2014

    I’ve been swaying back and forth about reading this or not. I loved loved loved Atonement (I think you should read it), but this didn’t seem to speak to me the same way. I think I’m going to hold off on this a bit longer, it doesn’t seem like there was anything overly special about it. Thanks for the honest review!
    – ashley

    Like

    • ebookclassics
      October 9, 2014

      I really liked this book, but I don’t think it will have the same impact as Atonement. I liked Ian McEwan’s writing and would really like to read Atonement soon.

      Like

  6. lauratfrey
    October 11, 2014

    You guys, Atonement is great, book AND movie. Naomi, give it a chance! Yes I am biased by James McAvoy love, but still. It’s gorgeously filmed and pretty true to the book.

    Like

    • ebookclassics
      October 14, 2014

      I really want to read and see Atonement. I didn’t know that James McAvoy was in the movie. All I ask is that Keira Knightley doesn’t do that weird thing with her mouth.

      Like

      • lauratfrey
        October 14, 2014

        I don’t think she can help that. She doesn’t bug me the way she bugs a lot of people though.

        Like

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