Book Nine, Week Nine: The Children Act by Ian McEwan

I love the law, not enough to have completed my half-hearted attempt at a graduate law degree before running off/away to live in another country, mind you, but I sometimes dip into a really interesting court case and admire the way the facts and the legal and moral arguments are picked apart in court, and put back together again in the findings of a judge.

I think that’s what I admired most about The Children’s Act by Ian McEwan, more than the tale of the marriage of High Court Judge Fiona Maye, and her husband Jack, which is fraying at the edges thanks to Jack’s desire to have one last grand affair.  Their relationship is almost an aside to the excellent way McEwan tells the fascinating tale of a court case involving a 17 year old boy with cancer who is refusing a blood transfusion on the basis that he is a Jehovah’s Witness.  The scenes set in Fiona’s chambers and in the court all make sense, but when she decides to visit the boy in hospital before making a judgement on whether the boy can or can’t consent to refusing treatment doesn’t work as well.

However, even when McEwan isn’t at his best, he’s still many, many miles ahead of many other authors of his ilk, and now I am going to go back and read On Chesil Beach.

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Book Eight, Week Eight: Us, by David Nicholls

I feel bad. I dismissed David Nicholls as Not for Me based on the success of the book and film of One Day.  But the other week I saw his latest book, Us, for cheap in on Amazon and picked it up for my commute, thinking it would be something that wasn’t too taxing and could be easily interrupted when I changed at Oxford Circus.

However, this is an often touching and deftly comic tale of the end of a relationship, woven in along with the back story of how the couple came together in the first place.  A Guardian review criticises the book for being puritanical at times, but I think that just fits in neatly with the personality of the protagonist, Douglas.  The story is driven along by the family’s modern Grand Tour of Europe along with their almost-grown son, and the critiques of the art the families sees are particularly great, possibly because of my recent visit to the Rijksmuseum.