The Children Act

The Children ActSitting in my hotel room, some 30 floors up in Kuala Lumpur, I dodged out of post-conference drinks to finish Ian McEwan’s The Children Act.

It is quite short book, making a sort of trilogy with On Chesil Beach and Saturday. Its background is one I know well: the exhilaration of practising law at a high level, playing Bach and listening to Keith Jarrett, the pleasure of a decent malt whisky and so forth. Into this, he weaves much darker themes: the aching sadness of a long-term marriage turning sour, momentary glimpses of sensuality as the human body starts its descent into old age, and suicide. It is exquisitely written. By the time I finished it, tears – I had any left – would have been streaming down my face.

Some of us might perhaps have given up the law a while ago in order to write fiction, but for Ian McEwan. Why do – probably badly – what someone else is already doing so well?


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