The Children Act, by Ian McEwan

childrenactIn The Children Act, distinguished family court judge Fiona Maye has to rule on a difficult case involving a seventeen-year-old Jehovah’s Witness boy who refuses a blood transfusion that may save his life. He is just under the legal age to refuse consent himself, and the court must decide whether to force him to receive the treatment against his own wishes and the wishes of his parents. Because the case occupies such a legal grey area, Fiona takes the unusual step of going to visit the boy in hospital herself rather than simply relying on the social workers’ reports. 

Her encounter with the boy, Adam, has implications which spread far beyond the legal decision Fiona makes later that night. This case and its aftermath, unfolding at the same time as a crisis in her till-then happy marriage of thirty years, forces Fiona to take a close look at herself and the choices she has made in life. This is a detailed, thoughtful character study where the character’s inner life is far more important than what happens to her in the outside world.

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