Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Children Act by Ian McEwan

ISBN: 978-0-345-80962-9

Ian McEwan is one of my favourite authors. He has the ability to take you into a scenario that he has illustrated and keep you rapt until the last page. He does follow a formula, however: one that he has perfected in the years that he has been writing. He is as descriptive as any writer--you will never feel as thoigh you missed something. In fact, you feel as though you are standing alongside the protagonist. You root for them and think everything is going their way. And then something happens. Like the Kaiser Sose moment in The Usual Suspects but not necessarily as extreme. As a faithful reader, you wait for this inevitable twist and wonder how he is going to close out his story and tie everything together into a neat little package shortly thereafter.

The Children Act is not unlike McEwan's other books. In fact, fans of the writer need not be told who penned the book: after the first few pages of highly intelligent storytelling, it is evident that it is, in fact, a McEwan. This story follows judge Fiona Maye through her days acting as a moral compass in family court and her evenings at home where her marriage is falling apart. If she did not have enough on her plate as it was, she was also a talented pianist and performed with a colleague of hers regularly.

McEwan is a liberal and lends his viewpoints to Maye. She rules over controversial cases: most notably the splitting of conjoined twins to save one's life and end the other's and the case that comes to the forefront of the novel.

Adam Henry is a Jehovah's Witness approaching his 18th birthday. He has leukemia that can be treated but only after a blood transfusion--which is prohibited in his religion. As a minor, the choice to refuse the transfusion lies in the hands of his parents who decide that if it is God's will to take their son, so be it. The hospital, knowing very well that the boy's life will be saved with the transfusion, does not accept the decision and brings the matter into Fiona Maye's court.

After hearing both sides of the story from the doctors and Adam's parents, Fiona will only make her decision after hearing from the boy himself. 

Adam is very much aware of the choice that was made for him and does not second-guess it. He is mature and intelligent but his faith carries the most weight in his life, perhaps because he has never known anything else. Maye's admiration of Adam adds to the difficulty of her decision: although she went in thinking that she would rule in favour of the transfusion, it's hard for her to force her opinion against the religious views of this very rational kid who is nearing the age of consent.

I'm not down with spoilers so that's all you're getting from me. There is a twist, obviously. It isn't the best one McEwan has given us, but it is certainly worth reading, preachiness aside.

I liked it but if you want the goods, you should definitely check out Enduring Love, Atonement or Amsterdam. Actually, read all of them--you won't be disappointed. Unless you are expecting Kaiser Sose which, after some consideration, may not be the best example of McEwan's twists.

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