The Children Act: A Book Review


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Ian McEwan’s reputation goes before him and The Children Act did not disappoint. It is the story of a High Court judge (Fiona May) who deals with family matters. Three cases are discussed in some detail – one a divorce case between a jewish couple determining where the female children should be schooled, another about cojoined Siamese twins where it will condemn one of the twins to certain death if they are separated and the case of a boy of the Jehovah’s Witness faith, suffering from leukaemia whose parents are refusing him a life saving blood transfusion. The legal arguments for each case are complex and compelling and I found fascinating.

At the same time Fiona’s marriage is at crisis point and needs as much careful consideration, deliberation and care as those cases before her. The decisions she makes both in the court cases and her personal life and her rationale have consequences that she doesn’t expect or anticipate. What these are I won’t say as it may spoil the book for any who read it. For me the ending was totally unexpected.

McEwan’s writing is elegant and shows great mastery. Although only a short book, it packs a big punch. It makes you look at your own belief system. Question what is morally right, where you stand in the world.

Would I recommend this book – yes I would. I think it would be enjoyed by all readers. Both my husband and I rated this narrative highly – quite unusal that we are both in total agreement about a book so I have no hesitation in recommending it for reading by any gender.

About Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

I began my working career as a reluctant potato peeler whilst waiting to commence my training as a student nurse. On completion I worked mainly in intensive care/coronary care; finishing my hospital career as clinical nurse educator in intensive care. A life changing period as a resort owner/manager on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu was followed by recovery time as a farmer at Bucca Wauka. Having discovered I was no farmer and vowing never again to own an animal bigger than myself I took on the Barrington General Store. Here we also ran a five star restaurant. Working the shop of a day 7am - 6pm followed by the restaurant until late was surprisingly more stressful than Tanna. On the sale we decided to retire and renovate our house with the help of a builder friend. Now believing we knew everything about building we set to constructing our own house. Just finished a coal mine decided to set up in our backyard. Definitely time to retire we moved to Queensland. I had been writing a manuscript for some time. In the desire to complete this I enrolled in a post grad certificate in creative Industries which I completed 2013. I followed this by doing a Master of Arts by research graduating in 2017. Now I live to write and write to live.
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6 Responses to The Children Act: A Book Review

  1. TanGental says:

    Interesting. I find McEwan to be marmite, some I love and some I loathe. With McEwan though short is good so I might try this one.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I know what you mean. We did this one at our book club and although everyone rated it highly (I think apart from 1 person) there were many who said their hearts sank when they saw the author as they had found as you say but as we’re Australian I will convert – he is like vegemite.
      If you do read it I would be interested to hear what you think with your background in law as to the legal arguments put forward.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I would try the book, since the questions raised are fascinating! I’ve never read him, but I’m always willing to try a new (to me) author!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Charli Mills says:

    Interesting book and worth a read just to be able to discuss it further.

    Liked by 1 person

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