The Children Act

  • by Ian McEwan
  • Narrated by Lindsay Duncan
  • 6 hrs and 13 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

A brilliant, emotionally wrenching new novel from the author of Atonement and Amsterdam.
Fiona Maye is a High Court judge in London presiding over cases in family court. She is fiercely intelligent, well respected, and deeply immersed in the nuances of her particular field of law. Often the outcome of a case seems simple from the outside, the course of action to ensure a child's welfare obvious. But the law requires more rigor than mere pragmatism, and Fiona is expert in considering the sensitivities of culture and religion when handing down her verdicts. But Fiona's professional success belies domestic strife. Her husband, Jack, asks her to consider an open marriage and, after an argument, moves out of their house. His departure leaves her adrift, wondering whether it was not love she had lost so much as a modern form of respectability; whether it was not contempt and ostracism she really fears.
She decides to throw herself into her work, especially a complex case involving a 17-year-old boy whose parents will not permit a lifesaving blood transfusion because it conflicts with their beliefs as Jehovah's Witnesses. But Jack doesn't leave her thoughts, and the pressure to resolve the case - as well as her crumbling marriage - tests Fiona in ways that will keep listeners thoroughly enthralled until the last stunning page.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

McEwan has written perfection in this novel.

Thank you, Ian McEwan, for writing exactly the book I've looked forward to for many months. Rationalism, science, biology, logic, law, and the absence of unnecessary drama and hyperbole are all things I prize in life, and it was a real pleasure to have them written so incredibly well in the character of Fiona Maye in The Children Act. Fiona is an English High Court judge in the Family Division who must decide the fate of Adam Henry, a 17-year-old Jehovah's Witness who has leukemia and is refusing a life-saving transfusion. Fiona is also dealing with a crisis in her personal life; her husband Jack has announced to her that “I love you, but before I drop dead, I want one big passionate affair.”

Some of the best parts of The Children Act are the beautifully reasoned details of several of Fiona's decisions. In her judgements, she tries to bring “reasonableness to hopeless situations.” Her decision in Adam's case has consequences that affect Fiona's personal life, and part of the miracle of this book is that McEwan writes this human drama without TV movie dramatics or bashing of religious beliefs. This is the first book I've read by Ian McEwan, and I'll approach some of his other books with a bit of trepidation, but The Children Act is about as close to perfection in a novel as I've ever read.
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- Bonny "Mother, knitter, reader, lifelong learner, technical writer, former library assistant & hematologist."

Very strong narration by Lindsay Duncan

I really enjoyed this book, as I have all of the Ian McEwan novels I have read. His writing is excellent and he examines meaningful subjects without the posturing and self-consciousness I find irritating in much of contemporary literary fiction.

I rated the narration a "5" because it reminds me of the wonderful Juliet Stevenson narration for 'Sweet Tooth', and 'Middlemarch' and many of the Jane Austen novels. I had not heard Lindsay Duncan before but I will seek out other of her narrations in the future. She enunciates really well and has a very pleasing voice and tone without affectation.

The focus of this book is the distinction between morality and religious faith and the dilemma of legal justice at the center of these tensions when the court must decide between the arguments of one parent vs. another in a divorce case where the parents have different religious beliefs, where medical decisions counter to a family's religious beliefs on behalf of children are appealed to a court by a hospital and where other weighty decisions of the family courts involve choices made for others based on laws and made by humans in all their imperfections.

The book itself is fascinating and benefits even more from the excellent narrator. Many other books address some of the topical issues in this book, but many are quite manipulative and sensational. What is appealing about this particular book is the author's attempt to deal with these topics without whipping up the passions of righteousness and emotion but through examining the ways in which a judge attempts to do right by those on whose behalf he/judges.

I rated the narration better than the overall book because somehow the ending didn't feel like the rest of the book. I am not sure the author was entirely successful at blending the personal life of the judge and her involvement in the life of the child at the center of the novel. I felt that much more tension was built up than actually was resolved by the ending - I don't want to disclose too much but I didn't feel as engaged by the ending as I was by most of the book. That said, I am already thinking about listening again.
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- Doggy Bird "Avid reader of classics and fiction, history and well-written genre novels. Music lover and huge audiobook fan."

Book Details

  • Release Date: 09-09-2014
  • Publisher: Recorded Books