I have just finished reading The Children’s Act by Ian McEwan. This is my favourite book so far by this author. It is a reflective piece, beautifully written, about love, reason and the meaning of life. It is written from the view point of a senior high court judge who is ruling in a life and death case of a Jehovah’s Witness boy. It shows how she reasons (the welfare of the child is paramount), how the law frames our lives and her response to the boy’s reaction, while at the same time dealing with her own emotional responses to her marriage breakdown. Ian McEwan deftly reflects on the history and influences that frame our thinking and snare our emotions. His descriptive prose is lovely, both in terms of physical detail (wonderful descriptions of London) and mental torment. In his finale, and the book is like a classical concert, through the music of his words he lifts the spirit and sound and the reason of mind and then places them gently back on terra firma, where we all belong.
It was a wonderful book to read as my daily routine had become a little mundane. Before reading the book I had just started a blog, railing at politicians, politics, Grammies, BAFTAs, war and terror and my powerlessness which seems to be exaggerated by old age. I had just read Kevin Barry’s collection of short stories, Dark Lies the Island. They are strange but cunningly realistic of today’s world. They shade the underside of normality, each one a double exposure. The stories describe the routine daily horrors of drugs, terror, drink, and abuse but without the tenor of screaming headlines. They are brilliant, but alongside our politicians, the war in Ukraine, and the EU response to the Greeks, they heightened my feelings of disappointment, sorrow and frustration.
In contrast, Ian MacIwan lifted me out of the doldrum of daily life and reminded me of the glory of individual human reasoning, and the meaning of life – however shite it sometimes appears.