Don’t you just love a novel with a legal theme? Or maybe it’s just me because of (or, dare I say, in spite of) the fact I am a law graduate and fiction-lover. If you, like me, take an interest in the law, go out now and buy ‘The Children Act’ and even if you don’t consider yourself a legal person, this gripping novel is a reminder of McEwan at his best.
Sitting in my family law class years ago, little did I know that the topic of transfusions for Jehovah’s witnesses and the courts’ right to intervene on behalf of what lies in the child’s best interests would outwardly be the central theme of a novel I would read years later. I fell in love with Fiona Maye, the judge whose private life is turned upside down when her husband asks her permission to have an affair to make up for a sexual deficit he feels is tarnishing their marriage. She is strong and intelligent and involved in her cases, with the law becoming her life. She is easy to relate to for how human she is – she could be any one of us. Against this backdrop of the professional judge suffering a personal crisis, the two worlds merge when she goes to the hospital to meet the young man whose life her ruling will save. This is even though his religion dictates he should die and, the thoughts of his parents aside, makes a decision, in faith and in rationality, that this is what he wants for himself. Being described as an exceptional young man on all fronts when the application is made before her, she does the unthinkable and goes to the hospital to see for herself. And so a chain of events are set in action that will impact Fiona’s life and bring perspective in light of her seemingly crumbling marriage.
The depth and nuances of this book make it hard for me to resist reading it again; something which wouldn’t be too labour-intensive considering the brevity of the book. ‘The Children Act’ is nostalgic of McEwan pre-‘Sweet Tooth’ (even though I loved that book too, although I can hardly describe it as a classic McEwan – call me obsessed). One of the best books I have read this year!