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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

To read about movies and TV shows I'm watching, visit my other blog: Elliot's Watching

Monday, November 17, 2014

A ruling on The Children Act

Despite some quibbles - that is, some behavior that seems extreme and improbable (would the young man Adam Henry likely fixate on the 60-year-old judge whose order saved his life?), too many second-and narratives (summaries of cases in family and criminal court that maybe make for good discussion points but feel far too extraneous to the plot and narrated and a pedestrian manner) and a lot of showing off by by author Ian McEwan (I get it, your a British polymath, able to discourse on the law, architecture, classical music, the infield fly rule - just kidding), and a bad title, The Children Act is a very good novel, one that in fact gets better as it moves along to a very strong and moving conclusion (my experience is that far, far too many novels start off as a great idea and the author has no idea where to go with the premise or how to wrap it up). The great strength is the central character, Fiona Maye, a woman in crisis. As we gradually ascertain over the course of the novel, she is focused on her work to exclusion of her marital relationship, perhaps not feeling sexually attracted to her husband any more, but concerned about her aging and her losing her allure, and when she meets a young boy in the course of her work - visiting him "in hospital" to prepare to hand down a ruling as to whether he can be forced to take blood transfusions - she needlessly flirts with him (though should wouldn't see it that way); because he's so emotionally frail, he fixates on her, writes her letters, sends her poems, eventually follows her to a northern city where she's on assignment and asks if he can move in with her. She sends him away, but stupidly kisses him on the lips - stirring all kinds of emotions in him, presumably, and risking her career should anyone have seen her. Finally, she seems to begin to understand that what she needs is to re-gain the affection of her husband, who had started off the novel by walking out of the marriage but has now returned, and she begins to open up to him - though it will be a long and difficult process.  The last scenes is somewhat reminiscent of the close of The Dead, in mood and in plot elements - though in this case it's the woman, not the man who died young, who sang the beautiful song. Very intelligent examination of her psyche and of the challenges in many marriages. As a family court judge, she sees domestic world at its worst - her work life is consumed with battles between spouses over the fate of their children - so her image of what a marriage is or can be is distorted (much as a police officer sees his or her city as one of crime and mayhem - rather than a place where most people go through most days just living their lives). Perhaps not McEwan's best novel - that would be Atonement, with which this shares some qualities - the fate of a person hinging on one mysterious moment of contact and how that was perceived or misperceived.

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