Friday, March 13, 2015

The Children Act by Ian McEwan (Book Review)

If you are looking for an enthralling March break read, Ian McEwan's The Children Act might be just the thing. At just over 200 pages, this suspenseful book is a perfect shorter read to occupy the nervous airplane traveller or the vacationing beach bum. Of course, it's also fine for reading at home in winter on your plain old couch (like I did).

The Children Act has more to recommend it than its brevity. If you've read any of McEwan's many previous books, like Atonement or Enduring Love, you know that he has a masterful writing style. The Children Act reminds me very much of On Chesil Beach because it feels ominous like it is building to some horrible conclusion, but there is little actual action.

The Children Act delves into the life of leading High Court judge Fiona Maye. She is entrusted with the responsibility of carrying out family court laws in London, particularly surrounding the welfare of children. With her own marriage in jeopardy, Fiona deals internally with her regrets at never having children while at the same time making crucial decisions on behalf of other people's children.

The book follows Fiona's thoughts, worries and considerations as she carries out her considerably challenging job. The storyline builds to Fiona's most daunting case yet - she must decide if a hospital can administer life-saving treatment to a boy who has refused treatment for religious reasons. Her decision ultimately changes the course of the boy's life and her own.

Towards the end I kind of saw where the book was heading, but despite my lack of surprise I really enjoyed this novel. It raises some interesting questions about children's rights, religion and the lines of responsibility between parents and the courts. That sounds like it could be boring. But it isn't. It's interesting, imaginative, thrilling, beautifully written and sometimes quite sad.

Look for The Children Act online in the U.S. or in Canada.

Have you read any of Ian McEwan's novels? What did you think?


  1. I haven't done any "pleasure" reading in a while, sadly. But now that I've got new glasses (bifocals...gulp) I am compiling a list of books to read this summer. Ian McEwan's works just got added to the list! I've heard of him, and tend to like his stances politically, but haven't read his works. Thanks for the review!

    1. Oh my gosh, the bifocals! I'll be there soon too. What a pain! I hope to read a pile of books this summer too. I haven't in the past but I feel that I'm more dedicated to the idea this year. I'll be curious to know if you like McEwan's books. I find British writers more similar to Canadian writers in their sensibilities. So I want to hear your American perspective. ;)