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The Children Act

by Ian McEwan

A brilliant, emotionally wrenching new novel from the author of Atonement and Amsterdam.

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 thirty years is in crisis.

At the same time, she is called on to try an urgent case: for religious reasons, a beautiful seventeen-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.


“Although thrillingly close to the child within us, McEwan nonetheless writes for, and about, the grown-ups. In a climate that breeds juvenile cynicism, we more than ever need his adult art.”  Boyd Tonkin, Independent

“Every word counts: one has the sense of a complicated piece of music played by a master soloist.”  Christina Hardyment, The Times

“Fascinatingly complex and finally heartbreaking… A quite beautiful work of fiction.”  John Sutherland, The Times

“A great writer. One of the most acute chroniclers of modern life and its discontents … The Children Act is both gripping and highly topical…Entirely entrancing”   Andrew Marr

“Prose of uncommon clarity, unshowiness and control … Masterly”  Kate Kellaway, The Observer

“A masterclass in the power of precision and restraint … McEwan is brilliant on the details that form the backdrop to public and private tragedy.”  Christina Patterson, The Sunday Times


“McEwan brings to the analysis of justice a distinctive combination of literary skill, empathy and legal knowledge… A welcome addition to the class [of novels about judges].”  David Pannick QC, The Times

“A classic McEwan novella, swift and compelling, asking to be read in a single sitting despite its 200-odd pages… He makes it look simple yet few other writers have anything like his mastery of such prose… So skillfully composed and fluently performed, it’s a pleasure from start to finish, one not to be interrupted.”  David Sexton, Evening Standard

“A brave and enormously interesting subject.”  Amanda Craig, Independent on Sunday

‘A thrillingly grown-up read’  The Independent 



About Ian McEwan

Ian McEwan was born on 21 June 1948 in Aldershot, England. He studied at the University of Sussex, where he received a BA degree in English Literature in 1970. He received his MA degree in English Literature at the University of East Anglia. McEwan's works have earned him worldwide critical acclaim. He won the Somerset Maugham Award in 1976 for his first collection of short stories First Love, Last Rites; the Whitbread Novel Award (1987) and the Prix Fémina Etranger (1993) for The Child in Time; and Germany's Shakespeare Prize in 1999. He has been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction numerous times, winning the award for Amsterdam in 1998. His novel Atonement received the WH Smith Literary Award (2002), National Book Critics' Circle Fiction Award (2003), Los Angeles Times Prize for Fiction (2003), and the Santiago Prize for the European Novel (2004). He was awarded a CBE in 2000. In 2006, he won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for his novel Saturday, and his novel On Chesil Beach was named Galaxy Book of the Year at the 2008 British Book Awards. McEwan has been named the Reader's Digest Author of the Year for 2008, the 2010 Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award, and in 2011 was awarded the Jerusalem Prize. McEwan lives in London. His most recent novel is The Children Act.


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