"The Children Act" by Ian McEwan

As a High Court judge in London, Fiona Maye has presided over many newsworthy cases. But she is about to hear a case that will be front page news for days to come. Adam is a seventeen-year-old boy who needs a life-saving blood transfusion but whose parents will not permit it because of their beliefs as Jehovah’s Witnesses. The hospital is looking for a ruling that will allow them to go ahead with a transfusion against their wishes and it is Fiona’s decision to make with only a few days to spare.

Fiona is more than happy to throw herself into the case. Her domestic life is in shambles, her husband has just asked her for an open marriage and when she refused, he moved out of their home.  On her own for the first time in many years, she finds herself worried less about the end of her marriage and more about how it looks to others. And when Adam's case refuses to leave her, even after she gives her ruling, she wonders at just what her life has and will become.

The Children Act is the new release from celebrated writer Ian McEwan. Named for the British law that decrees a child’s welfare should be the paramount concern of the courts, it goes beyond the story of one boy and looks at the freedoms and responsibilities of all individuals.

This is the first novel I have read by the Booker Prize-winning author, though many of his other books sit on my to read list. The subject matter of this book caught my eye right away which is why I chose to read it right away instead of allowing it to languish on my list.

It was a little different than I was expecting. I found the book a little slow going at the beginning and for such a short book I was surprised to see so much time giving to setting it up. I also thought that the actual case would be given more time, but instead we find much of the book dedicated to Fiona’s life before and after the case. I was expecting Adam’s side of the story to be given much more focus and I wish this had been true.

That being said, I really loved his writing style. There is so much to think about in this book, so much debate, and for it to be packed into a small novel means the writing needs to clear and tight, and that is exactly what it is here.  I very much went into this book with strong beliefs on the subject matter and found myself examining and questioning those beliefs throughout the entire thing.

I was told to take a few hours and sit down with this book to read from start to finish (I tried but then the kids took my attention way.) I fully agree with this, the book can definitely be read in one sitting thanks to both its length and absorbing plot.  But don’t let it’s length trick you into thinking that there isn’t much to it, it definitely gives you a lot to think about.

I received a copy of this book courtesy of Penguin Random House of Canada. The opinions expressed above are my own.


  1. I'm never quite sure how I feel about McEwan. Undoubtedly, he is a great writer, but I find it hard getting into his books. And then they take an incredible amount of time to read considering how slim they are. I don't usually enjoy his books as I'm reading them, but they always stick with me.


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