Book review – The Children Act by Ian McEwan

If Mr McEwan were a footballer, he’d be playing up front for Real Madrid, earning £300k a week – net of tax – and even Cristiano Ronaldo would be in awe of his fellow striker.

For here is a writer at the very top of his game.

The Children Act is his latest performance. At just over 200 pages of incisive prose, you may feel cheated when he’s substituted early in the second half, the game long since won by his mesmerising genius.

Don’t be. Just savour the time he’s out there, spraying the ball around effortlessly, developing play between vivid characterisations and subtle plot, before smashing the ball into the net with a heartbreaking, thought provoking finale.

The main protagonist is Fiona Maye, a 59 year old High Court judge. Successful, respected and compassionate at work, her childless marriage is under pressure at home.

A case comes before her which poses a moral dilemma: the nearly 18 year old son of devout Jehovah’s Witness parents is refusing a blood transfusion, which the medical profession knows would save his young life.

Fiona’s judgement has profound implications for the boy, and for herself.

The author’s meticulous research into the legal profession, as well as into medicine, music and the Jehovah’s Witness movement, underpins every word of the novel. Combine that with deft characterisations of complex, flawed people and The Children Act becomes a rewarding read, however short a cameo performance this is.

Enjoy the game.


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