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A January reading: Ian McEwan's "The Children Act"

18 january 2015 at 17.00

According to some social media researchers, tomorrow, Monday or Blue Monday ( this year: 19th January) is supposed to be “the most miserable day of the year”.  Many people suffer from January blues and I have to say I also find this month somehow more challenging than others. Winter is still very far from being over, flus and colds are the highest peak of the year, in Uk it is the tax return deadline and the energy levels seem to be generally quite low. So in case you are wondering why your mood is not great, January is probably not helping with it.

However, there is always something we can do about it.  And it can be an interesting challenge. Some people focus on new year resolutions, starting new activities, classes,projects.  One of my favourite way of fighting the January blues is to focus on indoor pleasures like  reading. Instead of focusing on movies, it is a book I would like to write about today.

Ian McEwan did it again. Whenever a book of McEwan comes out, I cannot help myself being quite excited and I know that sooner or later it will be on my bookshelf.

For some reason, I was not particularly intrigued by his two previous fictions (Solar, Sweet Tooth) but somehow I knew as Family Therapist and as McEwan fan that the Children Act would have been different .


Ian McEwan

Ian McEwan


And I am so glad I have read it.  The 13th novel of  the british Oxford based author  tells the story of a successful and respectedHigh Court judge, Fiona Maye, in her very late 50s, who finds herself in what we could easily call “a mid-life crisis” or to use a favourite systemic therapists’ expression “life-cycle transition”.  Her 30 years marriage with Jack is at stake,he has just told her that he wants to have an affair and he does not want to lie her about it, clearly wanting a reaction from her . But Fiona is in a place where she cannot react. At work,  she feels the pressure of cases of extreme complexity and  responsibility.  Every day her role demands that she makes decisions that fiercely affect children, parents, their families . One of her cases ,also given the troubles in her personal life, is about to affect  Fiona like none before: Adam Henry. Raised up by parents who are Jehovah's Witnesses, this 17 years old young man about to turn 18 is refusing blood transfusions that would save him from Leukemia because of  his religion beliefs as according to their Bible's interpretation receiving other people's blood go against God's will.

 I will not say more about the plot but Adam Henry’s case marks a turning point  for Fiona Maye, in her career, her personal and professional life. Although the rhythm of this novel is remarkably less tense than other McEwan’s books such as Saturday or The Innocent, it keeps you on your toes and at the same time it gently rocks you through Fiona’s reflections on her life, her marriage, what she sacrified to get to where she is today.  It also reminded me of how the different roles we play in our life are ineluctably interconnected: our work, the relationships in our personal life, who we were and who we are and as soon as we address it and become aware of it a whole world of new possibilities (and  yes, sometimes challenges) arise 


Gray's inn Square

Gray's inn Square, London

As a Londoner, I really enjoyed this book as I could visually picture Fiona in the streets of Clerkenwell, the Strand and all the corners of London that got to be very familiar to me in the last years. As a Family Psychotherapist, I could not help feeling for Fiona and accompanying her in the fiercely complex process of making the toughest decisions for young people that will mark their life forever.

What I also really admire in McEwan is the thoroughness of his work and the research that comes in the description of his characters.  His curiosity for some professions is contagious. Like  for Saturday where the main character was a neurosurgeon, you can tell how much knowledge of very high profile and complex professions ( in this case the High court Justice) he explored in order to make his characters so credible and interesting. 

Thank you for your work, McEwan. You were truly inspiring in this mid-January weekend.




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