In The Children Act McEwan lays bare several moral dilemmas, moving between their individual, even idiosyncratic nature, and their universality. The saving of a life, the strength of a belief system, passion, love and lust all feature.
He is a writer with a skill for bringing his characters to life. From the beginning the reader knows each of the players. The story weaves setting, personal stories and culture with ease, adding an essential ingredient for this particular book -the law and the normally hidden workings of the Family Courts. The ‘plot’ moves quickly, slowly, then quickly again, it never drags and rarely surprises but seems solid, well grounded in reality.
But it is always a risk to expose professional lives -is this really the way a Family Court judge might behave? In places it all seems a bit far fetched.
The choice of third person narration is interesting as the perspective is always that of the main protagonist, Fiona Maye. Perhaps that says something about her approach to life -she comes across as impersonal and objective until her inner and outer worlds join in a rather critical way.
It’s not often I read a book after I’ve seen the film, and as I reached the end of this short and very focused novel I learn why! Yes, film is a different medium, especially on the large screen ... for a start there is (usually) more than an audience of one. The book and reader are more mutable, intimate and I did not need the drama of the film ending to understand the story’s end. McEwan’s continued measured prose was sufficient.
For a review of the film go to https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/aug/25/the-children-act-film-review-preposterous-plot.
Back to the book, its just but only just worth 4 stars but not one of his best.