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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

Friday, November 14, 2014

Family Matters - in The Children Act

The second section of Ian McEwan's The Children Act brings the main character, a 59-year-old London family-court judge, Fiona, into her workplace: her husband Jack the night before told her he wanted to have an affair with a 20-something from his workplace, she naturally told him to go to hell, and he wallked (or drove - taking their only car, I think) out of the house. Now, through her day on the bench, she ponders her domestic crisis while dealing with the very difficult issues that come before her. IN part one we learned about 2 cases and now about 2 more: one involving a father who transported his children to Morocco and the mother wants them back - an issue to be taken up by some sort of world court; the other about a Jehovah's Witness family refusing permission for blood transfusions for their 17-year-old son (I once covered a story about that involving a much younger child). Each of these matters - including the domestic matter between Jack and Fiona - is like a test case for readers: what would you do? how would you decide? The only problem is that the material feels distant and undercooked - the cases before Fiona are presented largely in summary (though there is some interrogation on the JW case), and we don't get terribly emotionally or even intellectually involved in any of them, in that none of the characters come alive: they're characters twice removed, we're reading about someone else's reading about them (the case summaries or Fiona's decisions). I hope McEwan turns up the dial at least on the marital crisis: Fiona takes the rather impulsive and vindictive action of changing the locks on their house, which I would think would provoke some fireworks, unless Jack really just wants out of the marriage - despite his protestations that he loves Fiona - and will use her action as excuse for ending it all. Impossible to believe, btw, that he's not already engaged with the 20-something Melanie: as one much wiser than I on these matters has noted, a man doesn't leave a good woman unless he's already involved with someone else.

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