REVIEW: THE CHILDREN ACT, BY IAN MCEWAN

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As a High Court judge, Fiona Maye is charged with the task of deciding cases in the Family Division that would challenge a Solomon.

Sitting on her chaise longue on the evening before a court day, studying her notes, she is still shaken by something that passed between her and her husband Jack. He has presented her with an untenable situation that calls into account everything she believed about the two of them.

Childless, they have had a lovely home and life together, each with their own professions. So why is Jack trying to change everything?

Perhaps it is her personal situation that has thrown her off her game, but as she faces the cases before her in the days ahead, her attention has shifted, changing the way she decides things, and she finds herself approaching a particularly difficult case, one of life or death, with something unique to her. Something that brings it to a more personal level. And her decision is one that will change everything in the life of this child: his beliefs, along with the ideals upon which his life has been structured.

Why is her decision now troubling her, weeks later, as the child in question reaches out to her on a personal level? And how has the increased intensity of the young man’s pleas changed everything about how she sees her world?

Throughout The Children Act, I could feel a foreshadowing, a sense of darkness ahead. The suspense builds slowly until the final scenes. Like a crescendo of the music that Fiona often plays, both for her own pleasure and before an audience, we sense the emotional overtones growing heavier. When the final notes are struck, there is a sense that some aspects of her life will resume as normal, while other parts of her life will forever be changed.

A beautiful and lyrical piece of literary fiction that is one of the author’s best, in my opinion.

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