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 30 years is in crisis. At the same time, she is called on to try an urgent case: for religious reasons, a beautiful 17-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.
©2014 Ian McEwan (P)2014 Random House Audiobooks
Fascinating, thought provoking.
Apple Tree Yard, only because it deals with a professional woman, who outwardly has her life under tight control.
Lindsay Duncan is perfect although when portraying a 17 year old she is a touch patronising.
Who judges the judges?
McEwan always educates with his books and this is another example of exceptional writing along with scrupulous research. I think Ian McEwan must be a kind and thoughtful man.
Judith Corstjens Author of: Xtensity, Why 5% of Dieters Succeed; Storewars: The Battle for Mindspace and Shelfspace; Strategic Advertising
I feel Ian McEwan is to novels what Woody Allen is to films. You know you will get a worthwhile experience, not a dull moment, good writing, good research, no insult your intelligence. The heroine, Fiona May, is a 59 year old high court judge in the family court. McEwan oscillates a narrative between her work cases and a marriage problem in her private life, with the two slowly coming together in the last scenes. The cases she has to judge involve children, and this ironically emphasises the childlessness that one suspects is at the root of the problem in the marriage. Like many highly successful women (Angela Merkel, Condoleezza Rice, Barbara Castle, Nicola Sturgeon...) May had put off children, and just basically missed the opportunity. Her husband now fancies sleeping with a girl the age of the 'missing' daughter, maybe grasping, unconsciously at one last chance, or attempting to find a substitute. Anyway, the point is that McEwan raises interesting issues around the career/life choices facing brilliant women in our society.
Weaknesses. I found the ending a bit weak, and McEwan rather laboured May's coldness - so damn lacking in rhythm she couldn't play jazz (despite being a talented piano player). I felt often that McEwan could have given more - particularly by developing Mr May - he is just a cardboard cutout. It felt like McEwan was delivering a 200 page novella for £7.99, and didn't want to develop this into a more serious, weighty novel though he has enough material for subplots and extra characters.
Narration. 6 stars. Lindsay Duncan is a genius. I will explain: Duncan creates voice portraits rather than the lazy caricatures we are used to. Most narrators make me squirm when they have to represent poor, uneducated characters, but Duncan has the genius to create fine and civilised voices for all characters. The West Indian nurse has a truly Caribbean lilt, but she is also dignified and wise. Nigel - Fiona May's court clark - is similarly distinctive, courteous and discrete. And Fiona herself, not posh and haughty (so easy to do) but educated, thoughtful and refined. I would like Lindsay to narrate every single novel I ever read from now on.
Classics,contemporary fiction, Politics, Philosophy, Economics - a weekly eye on The New Yorker & The Guardian and dense word style/play.
Having panned Solar I was delighted with this complete return to form - and amused to see that Ian has taken my earlier criticism positively and delivered to formula.
Simpatico and substance on the basis of a well fleshed out female character coping with circumstances that fall squarely within the ambit of everyday life - albeit the everyday life of the senior judiciary. The main action is played out around the Inns of Court, but there is a well-judged diversion up to my now home ground of Newcastle Upon Tyne, the Quayside Courts and a country hotel on the way out to Hexham that read strangely familiarly (but its not Close House).
Most familiar of all was the ending - and whilst it is important to never judge a cover by its book - the homage to James Joyce is beautifully executed.
Right, we are back on literary track - medical, professional and judicial now ticked off and a classic short story translated into a satisfying epiphanous novella, you’ve done outside London, in the wind and the rain of a British autumn to boot......eyes on the prize now Ian, surprise us with something really big and inventive, go on son!
Ian McEwan at his best; stylish, sensitive and very sharp. The cool -not cold - analytical public voice of the protagonist, a respected circuit judge, who as a woman with a successful career has understandably mixed feelings about her childless state gives way to a more intense and troubled private voice. Her husband's announcement of his intention to commit adultery with his naturally much younger research assistant gives rise to such anger in her that her being is changed; so changed that it effects every aspect of her life and judgement.
The Children Act touches on , as usual in his writing, many different ideas and an almost profligate number of plot possibilities, all of which lend an air of excitement to the experience of listening.
,Though it is a short novel he manages to differentiate his characters and to delineate his landscapes with the lightest of touches; the dichotomy of the dryness and gossip of the world of the legal professions are caught wonderfully well. All of which nothing to the series of moral and intellectual dilemmas and failures in which his esteemed judge finds herself mired. A wonderful book, a must read.
Well no, not necessarily a read, because listening to Lindsay Duncan's delivery of the voices of Fiona as she travels through the stages of a not entirely understood journey is superb. The ironies of how children act are greatly enhanced!
As I've only listened to The audio version, i can't make a comparison.
I'd say the beginning of the novel, when Fiona May's husband Jack, a professor in History, suddenly announces he wants to have an affair With a 28 year old statistician.
I liked her dilivery, and her ability to do male voices without sounding too silly.
Yes, the final few paragraphs. Without giving too much away, fiona May gets her chance of redemtion, although this is also rather frustrating as it is almost at Adam's expense.
This is the first time I've read anything by Ian McEwan, and I was impressed. What I liked was that the novel tackles some controversial issues whilst giving the reader an insight into the world of law. Fiona May is a high court judge who works in the family division. Her preoccupation with her career is invaded when her husband Jack announces he wants to have an affair. Just as her confidence in her work and herself are thrown into question, she is asked for an emergency court order: a teenage Johova's witness is lying ill in hospital, and is refusing a blood transfusion. The novel is written in the third person, and so the narrator is inside Fiona's mind, observing each and every thought. Rather than concentrating purely on the marriage crisis, mcEwan focuses on the legal technicalities of Fiona's world — everything is seen in terms of the law; this is quite possibly her downfall.
A story that I've thought about long after I finished reading it. Skilfully weaving its way around want and consequence, it is both poignant and powerful. Highly recommended.
The things we do and say have an unknown and undesired effect by their interpreters. McEwan's books always lead me to introspection and Lindsay Duncan's eloquent enunciation corrects my mistakes.
Thoroughly enjoyable read. Gripping narrative. Raises interesting dilemmas that challenges your own thinking. Ian McEwan at his best. This book is a must read!
My bookclub read this two months ago. I didn't have enough time to finish it so listened to the audible version in the last few hours while doing other stuff and so got it finished in time. Another member of the club has very bad eyes, and the fact it was on audible meant she could listen instead of reading and take full part in the discussion. So I wouldn't say it was better, but it has certain advantages in particular circumstances.
The content covered by the book was a great subject for bookclub discussion and one element of the law discussed by a barrister in the book became national news the day after our meeting. All very fresh and topical.
"Packs a memorable and rewarding punch"
McEwen confronts the reader with a thought provoking issue presented with compassion and skill.
When should the state intervene in a family decision which has been based on strongly held religious beliefs: in this case, Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Adam, almost a legal adult, passionately, idealistically, agrees with his parents that, although dying from leukaemia, he must not accept a blood transfusion. Fiona, a judge, herself caught up in a personal crisis relating to the meaning of her marriage, fidelity and betrayal, must make a ruling on this matter.
This is a dynamic listen, beautifully read by Lindsay Duncan. It is concise, raw, disciplined. The language rich and melodious. The characters live, each travelling paths that the listener identifies with, participates in. What would I do? How do I feel about what happened?
"A fascinating read, a bit disappointing in the end"
Great reader. Wonderful incipit. Just a bit disappointing in its ending, but surely worth listening to.
"Another Superb Audiobook from Ian McEwan"
Always a brilliant commentator through his fiction of contemporary society Ian McEwan has produced a poignant insight into the judicial process when it comes to dealing with families and children in difficulty.The parallel story of the dilemmas facing the judge add another dimension to this tale. There really couldn't be a better narrator than Lindsay Duncan who with all her acting experience fills the story with passion and brings the individuals alive. Certainly one of my favourite audiobooks.
I really enjoyed listening to this book and thought that Lindsay Duncan was an excellent choice for narration. The story is compelling.
I have struggled with the last few McEwan titles although I have been a long-time fan (ever since I first read Amsterdam). This is a welcome return to Amsterdam form. I do not know if my familiarity with the legal themes helped with this perception, but it certainly did not hurt. In fact, there were times when I thought a person who was not intimately familiar with the English common law system and the precedent system particular to the United Kingdom (which is different in nuance from the US, for example), might have missed some of the subtleties of the narrative. It made me wonder if I have missed like subtleties in recent books (say about the publishing houses referred to in Sweet Tooth) and thereby misjudged them. In the end, I ignored the nagging doubt and settled back to enjoy the book. I don't think a legal background is a prerequisite
I thought Lindsay Duncan's read a very good one; not unlike Carole Boy's reading of Atonement and Juliet Stevenson's reading of Sweet Tooth. I suspect that whomever chooses Mr McEwan's narrators has a preference. For my part, I would not argue with that. The one constant in the three titles that I've mentioned is the high standard of the narration. This time (and with Atonement, notwithstanding my second time doubts), the content and the performance were a par.
A story that gives you a look inside a judges mind and personal life. About how huge decisions for the court are made. The book was really interesting, captivating and moving. Narration was great and overall I definitely recommend it!
I was so glad to find an audiobook that was both quality literary fiction and beautifully narrated. An intelligent and thoughtful story. Best I've had in a long time!
"An Absolute Gem"
I read and listen to quite a lot of books. I usually don't write reviews. I feel compelled to do so here, This book is fantastic. The narration is superb, The book is only short but the story and the writing are memorable. I don't always like Ian McEwan. He can be pretentious and put out stuff that relies on reputation. This is different. This will help cement his reputation. There will have to be a special book out there if this one is headed off at Booker Prize time!!
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