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.
ISBN 13: 9780224101998
Publisher: Jonathan Cape
Publication date: September 2nd 2014
I am not a fan of Ian McEwan’s writing so when I saw that I had to read this for my library’s bookclub I was not looking forward to it. I have to say that my initial opinion of Ian McEwan’s writing was further confirmed upon the reading of this book.
I found the book was really slow to read, especially when McEwan was dealing with the personal relationship between Judge Fiona Maye and her husband. The writing at these points gave me the impression that writing about personal relationships was not something with which McEwan was all that comfortable. However, when McEwan wrote about the court case of Adam the book was far more interesting, better structured and generally far more absorbing to read – I lost all sense of time when I was reading these bits – than I ever did with the parts concerning the judge’s marriage.
Another area where this book was let down was by the sheer length of the chapters. There were only five chapters in the entire book, with most of them being around 40 pages long each. This can be, and often is, a turn off for many people, and I must say that I was one of them. I found myself wishing he would hurry up and end each chapter because I felt like I was having to drag myself through the book to get it read.
McEwan also did something that is a pet peeve for me when reading books: introducing words that are foreign to its readers without providing their meaning. In this case, the word mentioned was otolaryngology, which is the study of diseases of the ear and throat. When this is done, it’s as if authors assume their readers are going to know exactly what they are talking about. When I was taught to write essays at school we had drummed into us that you write as if the person who was going to be reading it had no clue as to what you were talking about. The same approach can, and should be, adopted when writing a book. A book is essentially a really long essay!
There were, however, a couple of interesting comments he made which I felt were note worthy: 1) He posed a question about whether the Anglican church – it is interesting that he singled out the Anglican church – was a cult or not. This is a question that I have heard a number of people, over the years, ask about churches in general. I maintain that whilst people may feel that churches appear to be cult like, when one is in a cult it is extremely difficult to leave, whereas in a ‘normal’ church you are free to leave whenever you want to; 2) “A child shouldn’t go killing himself for the sake of religion.” This quote immediately reminded me of a number of organisations where this sort of thing happened, is still happening in today’s world – Jones Town, ISIS, and any war.
Overall, I didn’t like this book very much at all. I could only give it 2 stars and I think that was probably generous, and I certainly wouldn’t read any more of his books unless I absolutely had to.
Recommend for: Adults