The Children Act, Paperback Book
4 out of 5 (1 rating)


A brilliant, emotionally wrenching new novel from the author of Atonement and Amsterdam. Fiona Maye, a leading High Court judge, renowned for her fierce intelligence and sensitivity is called on to try an urgent case.

For religious reasons, a seventeen-year-old boy is refusing the medical treatment that could save his life.

Time is running out. She visits the boy in hospital - an encounter which stirs long-buried feelings in her and powerful new emotions in the boy.

But it is Fiona who must ultimately decide whether he lives or dies and her judgement will have momentous consequences for them both.


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The Children Act is a small but perfectly formed novel. No word is wasted, each sentence is perfect. And the subject matter is compelling; a High Court Judge in the family division, faced with the unravelling of her personal life by her husband's desire to start an affair with a younger colleague, is faced with a difficult case. An intelligent young man, just shy of his 18th birthday, is refusing a potentially life saving blood transfusion. His parents support his decision. But her job is to uphold the child's welfare - a duty that in this case might seem obvious, but as the novel reveals, is not as straight forward as it might seemMcEwan's unwrapping of the layers of the court and the law are fascinating; and he's gone to the trouble of learning about Jehovah's Witness beliefs and presents the Witnesses in a sympathetic light. As characters, the judge, her husband and indeed all the adults, are well drawn and entirely plausible. Unfortunately, the young 17year old Adam is not; can any British teenager, however protected his upbringing, really be so far removed from popular and contemporary culture? To have a death wish is one thing (and the comparisons to anorexia and self harming are well drawn, and references to other religions which could be made, are not) but to be seemingly totally removed from 21st century modes of behaviour is another. And because Adam is not believable as a character, to me anyway, a lot of what happens in the second half of the book is both predictable and incredible.Not that that reduces the enjoyability of the book but does reduce my rating of it a little. Perfectly formed then, but not perfect

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