Monday, April 27, 2015

The Children Act review – Ian McEwan’s compelling study of rational versus religious belief

A high court judge is the voice of reason in the face of religious short-sightedness in McEwan’s 13th novel

Ian McEwan
Ian McEwan: ‘His atheism rings loud and clear.’ Photograph: Karen Robinson
The Children Act, McEwan’s 13th novel, presents us with some of the usual trappings that have come to characterise his recent work: the well-educated and well-off protagonist whose equilibrium is suddenly upset by a powerful external force; and a single moment of apparently innocuous, but ultimately momentous, misunderstanding.

By day 59-year-old Fiona Maye, a high court judge, presides over family division cases; by night she sips Sancerre on the chaise longue in her Gray’s Inn flat, dines with colleagues at Middle Temple, or attends concerts at Kings Place “(Schubert, Scriabin)”. Her 35-year marriage with her academic husband is imploding, but this is background noise; the main event is the emergency case she’s just agreed to take on. A 17-year-old Jehovah’s Witness named Adam – an impossibly beautiful, slightly unbelievable, near ethereal presence who writes poetry and plays the violin – is refusing the blood transfusion that could save his life, and Fiona has to decide whether rational or religious thought wins the day.

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