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

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Sunday, December 14, 2014

A key element in first chapter of The Children Act, which slipped by me

Re-reading parts of Ian McEwan's The Children Act in anticipation of book group this evening and was struck by some material that sneaked by me in the first chapter; as we meet Fiona, the main character, she ponders all that's wrong in the judicial system in England (though she doesn't touch on what I think is the biggest problem, absence of jury trial sin criminal matters), and she reflects on the "old days" when judges in family court would actually take the time to get to know the children whose fate they were asked to decide. Now, she laments, it's all done by social workers who present their reports to the judge. She goes along with that system in most of her cases - the orthodox Jewish daughters fought over by their estranged parents; the child stolen away from his mother and brought to Morocco - odd how so many of her cases center on issues of faith and conflict? - but in the central case of the novel, the JW teenager, Adam, who along with his parents refuses a blood transfusion on religious grounds - she breaks with tradition and visits him in [the] hospital [bit of Britishism there], accompanied by a social worker - and of course that's the great and tragic undoing of the novel. By getting know the kid, or at least thinking that she does, she perhaps screws up her legal decision - not going by law but by her feelings - and screws the child up as well. It doesn't necessarily mean that McEwan is saying all should be entrusted to their "siloe'd" specialties, but there does seem to be an arrogance in Fiona's actions, as sense that she can do others' jobs better than they can, that she's the godlike expert in all things. Yes, she's entrusted w/ godlike powers - the religious theme again - but perhaps not w/ godlike capacity or ability, despite her multiple talents. She's certainly no "people person," witness her near estrangement from her albeit narcisstic husband, Jack.

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