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Niagara on the Lake, Ontario, Canada
My virtue is that I say what I think, my vice that what I think doesn't amount to much.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Children Act

I read this book because I will read anything by Ian McEwan but I was also interested because I worked in the field of child protection for the first third of my working life and this novel is about Fiona Maye, a family court judge. Fiona and Jack, her professor husband, are in their late fifties, childless and have a comfortable marriage. Perhaps their relationship has grown too comfortable because he decides to have an affair with one of his younger colleagues and seeks her permission to do so. Unsurprisingly Fiona is outraged and, when he leaves their flat with a suitcase, she changes the locks on the doors.
The book lays out a number of the challenging cases before her and the burden to provide fair and impartial judgements. The decision she renders on one of these cases will have repercussions. At its centre is a teenage Jehovah's Witness who has leukemia and his parents who refuse a life saving blood transfusion for religious reasons. Fiona is asked for an emergency court order allowing doctors to transfuse the boy. She visits him in hospital and makes a decision based on what she feels is in his best interest.
Fiona's professional life and her troubled home life play out against each other and, as always, McEwan handles it all with skill and thoughtfulness. Fiona's character is fully developed in this short novel. The cases she is called on to adjudicate and the gradual repair of her cracked marriage ring true. It's another great read from a wonderful writer.

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