Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Children Act by Ian McEwan (to be published Sept. 2014, 240 pages)

Up until a few days ago my only contact with the very large output of Ian McEwan was through viewing the movie made of his award winning novel Atonement.  I was recently given an advance review copy of his latest novel The Children Act.

The Children Act (the title refers to parts of English law that govern judicial decisions concerning the rights of children) centers on a fifty year old English judge.  Her husband of many years has just told her that he wants their childless marriage to become "open", in other words he wants to stay married but he tells his wife he needs the passion she can no longer give him so he asks her sanction to have an affair with a much younger woman.  She tells her husband, a history professor, that if that is what he wants he should leave.  

I found the most interesting parts of the novel to be the very well set out cases involving the welfare of children over which the judge was presiding.  The first case involved Siamese twins.  The doctors wanted the courts to order an operation that will allow one of the twins to survive while causing the other to die.  The twin to be lost has nearly no higher brain functions and both twins will die soon if nothing is done.  The parents refuse the operation as they see it as interfering in the will of God and tantamount to murdering the one twin.  The most important case involves a seventeen year old boy who will shortly die if he does not receive a blood transfusion.  His religion, strongly shared by his parents, forbids transfusions.  I thought McEwan did an excellant job presenting the case and letting us see things through the eyes of the boy and his parents.  This was for me the best part of the book.

I don't want to spoil the plot twist the story takes so I cannot tell anymore of the plot.  I did not find the turn the novel took convincing.  I liked parts of the work involving the work of the judge a lot but bottom line I am not suggesting the purchase of this book.  

I am glad I had the opportunity to read a work by McEwan.  I would say this is probably a book for hard core fans only.  I would not on the strength of this book, which I got free, buy his works.


Ian McEwan was born on 21 June 1948 in Aldershot, England. He studied at the University of Sussex, where he received a BA degree in English Literature in 1970. He received his MA degree in English Literature at the University of East Anglia.

McEwan's works have earned him worldwide critical acclaim. He won the Somerset Maugham Award in 1976 for his first collection of short stories First Love, Last Rites; the Whitbread Novel Award (1987) and the Prix Fémina Etranger (1993) for The Child in Time; and Germany's Shakespeare Prize in 1999. He has been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction numerous times, winning the award for Amsterdam in 1998. His novel Atonement received the WH Smith Literary Award (2002), National Book Critics' Circle Fiction Award (2003), Los Angeles Times Prize for Fiction (2003), and the Santiago Prize for the European Novel (2004). He was awarded a CBE in 2000. In 2006, he won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for his novel Saturday, and his novel On Chesil Beach was named Galaxy Book of the Year at the 2008 British Book Awards. McEwan has been named the Reader's Digest Author of the Year for 2008, the 2010 Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award, and in 2011 was awarded the Jerusalem Prize.

McEwan lives in London. His most recent novel is The Children Act.

Mel u


Heidi’sbooks said...

I've never read Ian McEwan. Thanks for this review. I would start an introduction to this author with another one of his works. Maybe his more popular ones.

Greg Zimmerman said...

Good review - thanks! Just got this in the mail and was disappointed that it feels so....slight. I've been a McEwan reader forever, but haven't liked his last several novels, and not sure this one is the one to reverse the trend. Hope I'm wrong!

Mystica said...

Thank you for an honest review on a subject which I intriguing