The Children Act by Ian McEwan
Published by Nan A. Talese/Doubleday on 2015-06
Genres: 21st Century, Contemporary, Fiction, Literary, Literary Fiction, Values & Virtues
Source: Nan A. Talese
Fiona Maye is a High Court judge in London presiding over cases in family court. She is fiercely intelligent, well respected, and deeply immersed in the nuances of her particular field of law. Often the outcome of a case seems simple from the outside, the course of action to ensure a child’s welfare obvious. But the law requires more rigor than mere pragmatism, and Fiona is expert in considering the sensitivities of culture and religion when handing down her verdicts.
I received this book for free from Nan A. Talese in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
There are three types of books I enjoy reading and, as a result, there’s generally three types of authors that go along with those books. Sometimes an author will cross over and write something that dabbles a little bit (or jumps completely into) one of those other two types of books, but generally speaking, they stick to what’s been done before under their name. One of those types of books (and authors) I really enjoy employs beautiful language and a storytelling ability that transcends everything else. When I read this type of book I can feel my world view expanding and my thoughts and ideas and preconceptions being challenged and tested. Ian McEwan writes books that not only deliver a sucker punch to my gut, but makes me grateful for being there to get punched in the first place. THE CHILDREN ACT delivered yet another punch and, while it didn’t hurt as much as ATONEMENT or SOLACE did, the after-effects are still rocking me a bit.
There are really two stories happening in THE CHILDREN ACT. One story deals with the marriage of Fiona Maye and the bomb that’s dropped into her lap by her husband of 30-odd years. The other story deals with the legal system in England, specifically those cases which, repeatedly, brought to mind the old stories of Biblical Solomon that I was taught as I was growing up. You know the cases – the separation of twins that will lead to the death of one of them; the determination of which parent takes the child home when, quite frankly, neither may deserve it, and finally, the case the book centers around, the battle between religion and medicine.
This second part of the story is a big part. It trumps even the issues within Fiona’s marriage, but rather than completely overshadowing them, it brings details like the discussions and interactions of Fiona and her husband into delicate, crystal-clear view. Everything seemed so sharp and the case had me on such pins and needles that everything else just seemed to poke and prod at me in all my weak spots. If it was affecting me, the reader, in such a way, man…my imagination goes crazy on how it would have affected anyone living this in real life.
McEwan is a masterful storyteller, there’s no doubt about that. In the pitch I received for this book, the writer said he experiences awe and envy at the ability that McEwan has with words. There is absolutely no doubt that McEwan’s vocabulary and, more importantly, his perfect execution of that vocabulary, makes anything he write a masterpiece. It’s such an added bonus when the story lives up to it.
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