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Publisher's Summary

Fiona Maye is a leading High Court judge, presiding over cases in the family court. She is renowned for her fierce intelligence, exactitude and sensitivity. But her professional success belies private sorrow and domestic strife. There is the lingering regret of her childlessness, and now her marriage of 30 years is in crisis. At the same time, she is called on to try an urgent case: for religious reasons, a beautiful 17-year-old boy, Adam, is refusing the medical treatment that could save his life, and his devout parents share his wishes. Time is running out. Should the secular court overrule sincerely held faith? In the course of reaching a decision Fiona visits Adam in hospital - an encounter which stirs long-buried feelings in her and powerful new emotions in the boy. Her judgment has momentous consequences for them both.
©2014 Ian McEwan (P)2014 Random House Audiobooks
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Customer Reviews

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By Jane on 09-08-14

Packs a memorable and rewarding punch

McEwen confronts the reader with a thought provoking issue presented with compassion and skill.

When should the state intervene in a family decision which has been based on strongly held religious beliefs: in this case, Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Adam, almost a legal adult, passionately, idealistically, agrees with his parents that, although dying from leukaemia, he must not accept a blood transfusion. Fiona, a judge, herself caught up in a personal crisis relating to the meaning of her marriage, fidelity and betrayal, must make a ruling on this matter.

This is a dynamic listen, beautifully read by Lindsay Duncan. It is concise, raw, disciplined. The language rich and melodious. The characters live, each travelling paths that the listener identifies with, participates in. What would I do? How do I feel about what happened?

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful


By Daniela on 05-08-15

A fascinating read, a bit disappointing in the end

Great reader. Wonderful incipit. Just a bit disappointing in its ending, but surely worth listening to.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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By Kaggy on 05-10-17

Who is the ultimate judge?

This is a fascinating and realistic story following the life of Fiona, an experienced and mature female judge as she works her way through the moral maze of the family courts. Many of the situations cited are based on real life cases that most people will know and recognise and the legal arguments used to conclude them are compelling reading. Besides dealing with the mind boggling complexity of her daily work, Fiona also has to cope with the news that her husband plans to leave her for a younger woman and her understandable hurt and rage at his betrayal.
As with many of the situations described, the main case is made difficult by the strongly held religious beliefs of the litigants and every reader will have a strong view as to how they see the case should be decided. There is tension in this story but this is not a typical courtroom thriller and is all the better for this.
I admit I did consider the work of the family court as being so much easier that the criminal court (nobody goes to prison after all). This novel convinced me that my view was ill-founded and left me with respect for the legal profession who are somehow supposed to sort out the mess we make of our lives while at the same time remaining fallible to their own personal troubles.
Lindsay Duncan has to be one of the top narrators in her profession and this was a beautiful performance completely appropriate for the subject matter. I was moved by this story as I always am by Ian McEwan.

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7 of 7 people found this review helpful


By Kirstine on 04-01-17

Beautifully written and read

A thought-provoking novel that delves into the question of whether the welfare of a child overrides the religious beliefs of parents. The story focuses on a case heard by family court judge, Fiona Maye, involving a teenage boy who needs a blood transfusion to save his life when the family adhere to a religion that forbids such treatment. I found this part of the novel the most interesting. A parallel story involves the marital problems of the judge and illustrates how her personal life impinges on her handling of the case. Both threads involve decisions that encompass questions of morality and human rights.

Lindsay Duncan has a lovely reading voice that adds to the pleasure of fine prose.

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5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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By Rachael on 08-01-16

Fantastic

Utterly addictive. McEwan is so perceptive & aware of subtle human characteristics that he forms rich, varied, believable characters & paints unforgettable moments.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful


By Fiona Cocker on 07-18-15

Moving story

The impact of one judgement on a judge, and the young man it relates, to at a difficult time in her marriage... Moving, emotional and thought provoking.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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