Friday, October 3, 2014

Review: "The Children Act" by Ian McEwan

British author Ian McEwan, like Michael Chabon and Jonathan Lethem, is an author who I find myself reading once every year, at least when a new book comes out, despite diminishing returns in the quality department. While I am proud to say I have read every piece of fiction he has put out, there are very few books of his that standout, Atonement is great, Enduring Love is his best, and I think more fondly of his earlier, more macabre fiction as time goes on, but very little of almost twenty published books is something to cheer for. The Children Act, his newest book, has elements of his best books, so this is a return to form for McEwan after a few very dull books, but at points I felt like I’d much rather have been reading those other books, so my enthusiasm wouldn’t feel cheap. The book starts off on a somewhat hilariously tragic note when Fiona, a family court judge, finds out that her husband wants to sleep with other people while still remaining together. Obviously furious after he leaves, she comes across a case of a teenaged Adam, who is refusing the treatment of a blood transfusion on the ground of his religious faith. His family are Jehovah’s Witnesses, and they believe it is God’s plan to let Adam die. Angered by her husband’s betrayal, she overturns the parent’s rule, and gives Adam the treatment, which produces surprising, and eventually tragic results. While it has a lot of the structure of Saturday, this book feels a lot more like Enduring Love, with a simple act causing a person’s life to take a sudden turn, but never achieves that book’s intimacy, with many characters taking away from the story of Fiona and Adam. If you are a fan of McEwan, this will be a welcome return to form from a writer who has more misses than hits.

Rating: 4/5

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