Friday, October 28, 2016


You have to forgive me if I do this review using a long pole. You may have realized by now that I shy away from reviewing renowned books by high-profile authors. It is as if my inadequacy might somehow contaminate its spirit, and that’s the last thing I wanted to do. Besides, books of that caliber, more or less, have already been dissected and autopsied by listed review sites. Still, this book has been niggling at me for some time now, I am reluctant to open another McEwan unless I get to say something about it first. And hopefully, that something will be significant.

THE CHILDREN ACT moves around a childless High Court judge, Fiona Maye, distinguished for her accomplishments at adjudicating delicately knotty cases in the Family Courts. One of her most difficult has recently been served -a life and death decision for Adam Henry, a 17-year old Jehovah’s Witness, in need of blood transfusion.  Fiona decided that a personal visit to the hospital is in order to determine whether Adam is mature enough to make his own decisions; or that the implementation of the Children Act of 1989 is duly necessary, which means junking both the parent’s petition and their religious precept.

Meanwhile, on the domestic front, Jack, Fiona’s husband for 35 years, announces that due to their lack of sexual intimacy for the last seven weeks, he has decided he needs a passionate affair.  “I need it. I’m fifty-nine. This is my last shot,” he argued –apparently, he already has a young statistician waiting in line.

What will follow is the author’s scrutinized account of the protagonist’s self-confidence and power beset by betrayal and self-pity. In her years of separating herself from sentimentality and insignificance, she had never been threatened by this kind of crisis before. In that disarrayed condition, she was stirred by Adam’s condensed naiveté. Adam, in return, was enraptured by Fiona’s genuine servile attention. With music and words between them, they found a kindred spirit in each other. In McEwan’s prose, I was carried by the same emotions, akin to Fiona. In those moments, they seem inescapable for me too.

That the world should be filled with such detail,
such tiny points of human frailty,
threatened to crush her and she had to look away.

In her review for The Guardian, Tessa Hadley wrote that Ian McEwan is fascinated by “the great institutionalized authorities”, choosing characters that belong to the echelons of their profession. This is my first McEwan novel, so I have to rely on her with that information. What awed me, though, is his view of the conflicting powers of an individual –commitment, resilience, compassion. People, even people of power or with great advocacy, will be subjected to vulnerability, one time or another.  Threats and problems arise when the personal blur the professional lines.  Sometimes, a single act may tinge a purpose or may even turn a whole event. On how we face and move on from these circumstances are the questions that we need to ponder.

The ending was unpretentious. It quietly glided along.  Nevertheless, the paradox of the title screams at me.  

Instead, she found her argument in the “doctrine of necessity,”
an idea established in common law that in certain limited circumstances,
which no parliament would ever care to define,
it was permissible to break the criminal law to prevent a greater evil

Book details:
Title:  The Children Act
Author:  Ian MacEwan
Publication:  September 9th, 2014 by Knopf Canada
Genre:  General Fiction
Rating: ★★★★★


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