Reviews

The Children Act, by Ian McEwan

wieporzellan's review

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3.0

Fiona Maye ist eine angesehene Familienrichterin am Londoner High Court. Als ihr der Fall des 17-jährigen Adam auf den Tisch kommt, der aus religiösen Gründen die medizinische Behandlung verweigert, die ihm das Leben retten könnte, ist sie es, die eine Entscheidung über Leben und Tod treffen muss.

Mich hat dieses Buch sowohl überrascht als auch enttäuscht. Nach dem Lesen des Klappentextes hatte ich einen Roman erwartet, der sich mehr dem juristischen Fall widmet und nicht so sehr auf die Charaktere abstellt wie hier geschehen. Der Fall, der eigentlich das Hauptgeschehen ist, verliert sich etwas hinter den persönlichen Problemen der Protagonistin. Bei deren Ausgestaltung bedient sich McEwan leider für meinen Geschmack sehr vielen Klischees und einem überholten Bild, was meine Empathie für ebenjene nicht wecken konnte.

Allerdings geht das irgendwie auf. Zumindest aus meiner Perspektive. Was mich nämlich positiv überrascht hat, war, wie sehr mir Ian McEwans Erzählstil gefällt. Das klinische, distanzierte, was vielen vor den Kopf stoßen mag, hat für mich perfekt gepasst, denn der Fokus sollte auf den ethischen und juristischen Fragen liegen, die in direktem Zusammenhang zu dem Fall stehen, und für mich eigentlich den Kern des doch eher schmalen Buches bilden.

lindsayseddon's review against another edition

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emotional reflective sad medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

3.5


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ilsemendez's review against another edition

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dark emotional reflective medium-paced

3.0

hannrm's review against another edition

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slow-paced

3.0

marthe's review against another edition

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5.0

Oh how I was moved by this book. It all rings so true, despite how different the characters are, they're all vivid, and stayed to haunt me for three weeks after I put the book down. I feel like this book is living to the promise of Enduring Love, though it's more sober, but no less efficient.

plan2read's review against another edition

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3.0

The author's language is as enjoyable as could be expected, but it never felt as though I left the mind of Ian McEwan long enough to inhabit the mind of the characters. The ideas here suffered from a lack of room to breathe on their own.

halfpotato_halfcheese's review against another edition

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4.0

Hits on so many topics in such a short amount of time. Characters aren’t strongly drawn out, due to the length of the book, but you still have a great understanding of them as a person and their habits. You’ve seen similar characters before and can relate to them. My favourite part is how court processes and cases have been depicted in such an interesting way. You feel like you are there and are captivating. Even after reading this I am still feeling torn about the judgement which was handed down and all the “what if’s” possible in these situations. Worth a read!

lex6819's review against another edition

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4.0

While I enjoy McEwan's prose style, I didn't like this book as much as I was hoping I would. Mercifully, it wasn't much over 200 pages...

fictionfan's review against another edition

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2.0

Banal, unconvincing and arrogant...

High Court judge Fiona Maye's comfortable life is rocked when her husband of many years announces that he would like her permission to have an affair. The poor man has his reasons – apparently he and Fiona haven't had sex for seven weeks and one day so you can understand his desperation. (Am I sounding unsympathetic? Oh, I haven't even begun...) This shattering event happens just before Fiona is to preside over a case where a hospital is seeking permission to give a blood transfusion to a 17-year-old Jehovah's Witness suffering from leukaemia, over the religious objections of the boy himself, his parent and the elders of his church. In her emotional turmoil over her marriage, Fiona allows herself to become personally involved in the case, throwing her carefully nurtured professionalism to the winds. This is the story of what happens to Fiona's marriage and to the boy...
His face had been tight as he shrugged and turned to leave the room. At the sight of his retreating back, she felt the same cold fear. She would have called after him but for the dread of being ignored. And what could she say? Hold me, kiss me, have the girl. She had listened to his footsteps down the hall, their bedroom door closing firmly, then silence settling over their flat, silence and the rain that hadn't stopped in a month.

I have a strange relationship with Ian McEwan's books. I find his writing style very compelling and occasionally he writes a brilliant book – Atonement, Enduring Love. At other times I find his subject matter banal or designed merely to shock. This one falls into the banal category. He has set out to have a go at religion or, as he likes to term it, supernatural belief, and has chosen a hackneyed plot to do so. The whole idea of whether the state should intervene when a child's life is at risk because of a religious belief has been debated ad nauseam and McEwan has nothing new or even interesting to say on the subject. But that's not his purpose anyway. He is really setting out to show how religion is an evil thing from which children require protection. He makes it crystal clear that he believes that children brought up in a faith are really victims of indoctrination and need to be saved - the suggestion hovers unspoken that it is tantamount to a form of child abuse. The central case concentrates on the Witnesses because, of course, they're an easy target, but he manages to get in criticisms of Jews, Muslims and Catholics too. He openly suggests that the beliefs of Adam's parents are superficial and that they will be glad if the court overrides them as that will get them off the hook and see them alright with God and their church – and he implies that that superficiality is common to all who profess religious beliefs. In fact, and I speak as an atheist here, his denigration of the sincerity of religious belief left me feeling furious and a little soiled. I find the attitude held by some atheists that theirs is the only possible right answer displays an arrogance greater than that of most religious people of whatever faith.
He came to find her, wanting what everyone wanted, and what only free-thinking people, not the supernatural, could give. Meaning.

Of course, it's quite possible to disagree vehemently with an author's point and still find the book to be worthwhile. Certainly this one starts off well. The description of Fiona's shock at her husband's request is done well and the story of how their relationship develops from that point has much about it that feels convincing. But McEwan has obviously done a ton of research on how the courts work and on the life of a High Court judge, and he has determinedly shoe-horned it all in at the expense of any sense of forward momentum for large parts of the book. While his descriptions are written well for the most part, sometimes he gives far too much detail of stuff that is both trivial and irrelevant, leaving me impatiently turning pages in the hopes that we might return to the story sometime soon. And while I found the characters of Fiona and her husband believable, I found them both to be cold and rather detached, not just from each other but from life. McEwan suggests that Fiona is realising too late that perhaps she should have made time to have children – largely so she'd have someone to sympathise with her over her husband's desertion, it would appear. Again I found this banal – wouldn't it be interesting if just once an author didn't suggest that a woman can only find fulfilment through breeding? Unsurprisingly the husband didn't seem to feel the lack of children at all...

But from a literary point of view it's the story of the boy, Adam, that's the real problem. We are told several times that he is mature for his age, but he acts more like a thirteen-year-old adolescent than someone on the cusp of manhood. His reaction to Fiona's decision left me entirely unconvinced, while his personal reaction to this 59-year-old woman verges on the ludicrous, as does her behaviour towards him. Not only does she behave unprofessionally, which she at least recognises, but her behaviour is inhumane - or perhaps more accurately, unhuman. Adam's behaviour is manipulated clumsily to make McEwan's point about the evil effects of a religious upbringing, meaning that he at no point seems like anything more than a cipher. And the ending is so deeply coloured by McEwan's clear hatred of religion that it has no ring of truth or compassion to it at all.
‘Of course they didn’t want me to die! They love me. Why didn’t they say that, instead of going on about the joys of heaven? That’s when I saw it as an ordinary human thing. Ordinary and good. It wasn’t about God at all. That was just silly. It was like a grown-up had come into a room full of kids who are making each other miserable and said, Come on, stop all the nonsense, it’s teatime! You were the grown-up.’

Overall, this is one I rather wish I hadn't read. The quality of the prose is the only thing that raises it above 1-star status, but I feel I've had enough of McEwan now. I think he has finally removed himself from my must-read list...

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nicki_j's review against another edition

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4.0

I assumed that the climax of this book would be the main character deciding whether to compel the 17 year old to have the blood transfusion or not. But I was wrong. That decision takes place about half way through. The actual climax of the book was artfully written (the piano scene – excruciating to wait to confirm what the bad news was, though the reader can guess.) There were a few inconsistencies - I think that Fiona could have responded to Adam in a way that maintained her professionalism and it annoyed me that she didn’t.

I listened to the book on CD and I imagined Fiona looking like Julie Andrews in the Princess Diaries. And I thought that the narrator made Adam Henry sound 12, not almost 18. That made his character less convincing and I wonder what I what would have thought of him had I read instead.

I really enjoyed the discussion of difficult legal/moral issues in other cases handled by Fiona and her peers.