April Bookclub Review: The Children Act

Thursday 30 April 2015 by

The Children Act, Book, Vintage, Ian McEwanThe Children Act by Ian McEwan

Published by Vintage

This book is 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.


If I’m honest, I’m not the greatest fan of Ian McEwan’s writing (although clever, it’s just not what I enjoy). But I heard such wonderful things about The Children Act, I thought it would be a perfect choice for this month’s Bookclub.

It tells the story of Fiona Maye, a High Court judge, who is called in to preside over a case of utmost importance. A teenage boy is dying of leukaemia, but is refusing the blood transfusion that will save his life on religious grounds. Meanwhile, Fiona’s marriage is on the rocks. But what a simple ruling sets in motion is something out of her control.

In a brief 213 pages, you are transported from the secure, ordered safety of the law courts, to the bewildering miasma of emotion and subterfuge and anger. McEwan’s characters are always flawed and tortured, and this is no different. They are at times unsavoury. They are at other times noble. The best thing about McEwan’s characters is their realism, and The Children Act is no different. It is McEwan’s writing at its finest (despite personal preferences, I can appreciate good writing when I read it!)

The conclusion, in all its inevitability, is still a shock, and executed well. It builds succinctly, with little room for confusion, and with the ability to leave you feeling satisfied from investing the time to read. For all my reservations about McEwan, he does know how to tell a good story. The subject, and its morals, is endlessly fascinating. For a slim volume, it speaks endlessly.

What did you think of The Children Act?

May’s House of Blog Bookclub is The Girl Who Was Saturday Night by Heather O’Neill! Tweet your thoughts through the hashtag #HoBBookclub on Twitter or write on the wall on the House of Blog Facebook page.

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