Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Children Act” as Want to Read:
The Children Act
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Children Act

3.67  ·  Rating Details ·  41,264 Ratings  ·  4,924 Reviews
Fiona Maye is a High Court judge in London presiding over cases in family court. She is fiercely intelligent, well respected, and deeply immersed in the nuances of her particular field of law. Often the outcome of a case seems simple from the outside, the course of action to ensure a child's welfare obvious. But the law requires more rigor than mere pragmatism, and Fiona i ...more
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published September 9th 2014 by Nan A. Talese (first published 2014)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Children Act, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

Jonathan My wife is a family law barrister and says it is pretty accurate - fiction, but based on detailed research and pretty similar to the kind of things…moreMy wife is a family law barrister and says it is pretty accurate - fiction, but based on detailed research and pretty similar to the kind of things she regularly deals with. (less)
Kath Hadn't thought about this until I read this question but another novel I have read is about a child who donates her bone marrow (not so sure of actual…moreHadn't thought about this until I read this question but another novel I have read is about a child who donates her bone marrow (not so sure of actual substance she has to donate) to her sick older sister and she has to go to court to STOP this ongoing process ... Perhaps those are the echoes? Another theme from this book is an adult mentor dealing with their own 'stuff' (technical term there) and therefore unable to be as much of a mentor as the protégé would like ...(less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Emily May
Oct 25, 2014 Emily May rated it really liked it
Shelves: contemporary, 2014
Do you like to people watch?

You know what I mean... just sit somewhere in a busy place and watch people bustle past in all their colourful weirdness. It's a habit I've acquired with age. Sometimes I think back to being a teenager and remember how I always wondered if I was strange in some way - I guess a lot of teens wonder that same question: am I normal? I wonder, had I taken the time to people watch back then, if I would have felt so lost and strange. I don't see how I could have. People are
John Grisham
Sep 09, 2014 John Grisham rated it it was amazing
THE CHILDREN ACT is about the law and sensational cases, but it is not a legal thriller. Rather, it is a beautiful and sad story of a High Court Judge forced to choose, literally, between life and death. Her ruling, though proper and legally sound, leads to both.
Jul 31, 2014 Sharon rated it it was ok
I have to stop reading McEwan's books, because I never enjoy them. There's something clinical, removed, about the way he tells his stories - I don't get the sense that he likes human beings, and he is writing about them to display his proficiency with structure and nuance rather than out of interest or sympathy. This is probably a three-star book, but a two-star experience.

She felt shrunken to a geometrical point of anxious purpose .”

This was my eighth McEwan. I rated On Chesil Beach as 5*, five others as 4*, and Black Dogs as 2*. That track record gave me high hopes for The Children Act, raised further by the intriguing dilemma at its heart: whether a bright and articulate Jehovah’s Witness boy, very nearly 18, should be forced to have a life-saving blood transfusion, against his religious-based wishes (and those of his parents).

I was very disappointed.

Perhaps it’s best I read The Children Act in the space of a day, curled on my sofa. Otherwise I might have been spied in my favorite cafe purring like a contented cat, stroked by the sublimity of Ian McEwan’s prose.

Words adore Ian McEwan, submitting readily to his firm but empathetic hand. They are sleek and gorgeous dancers to his choreography; alone, the words are admirable, but under his direction they assume nuance and strength. His works never fail to take my breath away. It is a comfort t
From the first page, I realized Ian McEwan’s The Children Act would conquer me. This novel is more a character study than a simple courtroom drama, as it deals with marriage, religion, and life choices. The story centers on the family court Judge Fiona Maye as she faces a crisis in her marriage, questions her life choices and stumbles practically on the edge of both her personal and professional life.
"Her judgment must be ready for printing by tomorrow's deadline, she must work. Her personal li
Oct 07, 2014 Agnieszka rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, mcewan, reviewed, 2015

McEwan is , in my opinion , very uneven writer . I really enjoyed The cement garden , Enduring love and Sweet tooth ; The child in time moved me deeply while Amsterdam was rather disappointment and The comfort of strangers total disaster .

McEwan relishes quirk and macabre , likes to handling very disturbing and bizarre , not to say creepy behaviours and relationships in his novels . He is very efficient and his writer's skills are indubitable but there is some coldness about his wri
May 15, 2015 Kalliope rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Not long ago, while having my morning coffee and while perusing GR, I encountered Fionnuala’s review of this book. It immediately drew my attention because not only am I a fan of Fionnuala’s takes on books and have liked several of McEwan’s books, but also because I was going to attend a trial in court within the next few hours.

Children and parents. Parents and children. Oof!. What should be only a love relationship can easily, and too often, turn into a thorny one, charged with distressing emo
Jun 11, 2014 Debbie rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015-runner-ups
I’m embarrassed to say that before The Children Act, I was a McEwan virgin. But now I’ve turned into a McEwan slut, anxious to read his earlier books. I can’t help myself. What a great writer!

This is the story of Fiona, a highly respected judge who presides over family court. She has to make hard decisions that determine the fate of families. She doesn’t seem to question her power or choices until her husband rocks her world and wants her to approve his plan to have an affair. Fiona, the ever ra
Not having read this author before, I’m very glad to have picked this one off of my 300 plus owned books. It will be easy to miss many great books this way won’t it?!

Fiona holds an immensely important job being a highly regarded High Court Judge presiding over families. She’s at a crossroads, or rather her husband is, and we see a fine story unfold as a marriage is being questioned and a brilliant woman teeters on the edge. At the same time Fiona has to decide how to apply a life and death judge
You could argue that the character at the heart of this novel is dangerously close to being a misogynistic cliché - the career woman who deep freezes her feelings in order to succeed professionally. Fiona Maye is a High Court judge in her late fifties. At the beginning of the novel her husband, maddened by his wife’s sexual detachment, leaves to embark on an affair with a much younger woman.

It’s easy to forget every judge has a personal life and that her professional life will have repercussion
Ron Charles
Aug 10, 2014 Ron Charles rated it really liked it
Believers of a millennial bent might consider this a sign: It’s not every summer that we get two dark and serious novels focused on Jehovah’s Witnesses. The first was Scott Cheshire’s “High as the Horses’ Bridles” about a boy preacher who drifts from the faith. And now, the second coming: Ian McEwan’s “The Children Act,” which puts the church’s beliefs on trial. Surely, members of this small Christian sect would prefer, instead, to get their own hilarious Broadway musical, but authors work in my ...more
Iris P
Dec 08, 2016 Iris P rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Readers interested in the Justice system and social issues
The Children Act

I read this book in two days, which for a slow reader like me is quite an achievement.
There's a certain "stream of consciousness" vibe on McEwan's writing, at least on this novel, but I absolutely adore his graceful, elegant prose.
Not sure why this book is classified as a mystery/thriller, it's nothing of the sort. However, if the idea of a novel featuring a strong female family court judge in charge of handling complex ethical issues sounds intriguing, this novel might be for yo
Angela M
Sep 03, 2014 Angela M rated it really liked it
Don’t let the fact that this is a pretty short novel deceive you into thinking that there is not much substance here. When I finished reading this book, I couldn’t stop thinking about the enormous power that Family Court judges have over the lives of so many young children whose families are in crisis and then even if the decision seems right, what happens to these children afterwards? Fiona Maye, a High Court Judge in the Family Division of the Courts in England (and this could be anywhere) ha ...more
One of the Ian McEwan books I've most enjoyed and a book which inspired the most vigorous debate my book group has ever had - a debate which felt like a day in court as all the 'barristers' present argued their cases; one, for the rights of children; another, the rights of parents; a third the letter of the Law; a fourth, the rights of the characters; a fifth, the rights of readers; a sixth the wrongs of the author.
No, scratch that last one of the record, court secretary; the conclusion was tha
Sep 17, 2014 Maciek rated it it was ok
As I began to read The Children Act, I thought that it would be the antithesis to McEwan's other novel, On Chesil Beach, where the marriage of a young newlyweds is damaged beyond repaid in a single moment, by what essentially is lack of communication.

In The Children Act the couple is much older and has been married for decades - Fiona is a 59 year old court judge, and is married to Jack, a 60 year old professor of ancient history. They have been together for 35 years, and led what could be desc
Lynne King
Jul 04, 2015 Lynne King rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Given the unique circumstance of this case, I’ve decided that I would like to hear from Adam Henry himself. It’s not his knowledge of scripture that interests me so much as his understanding of his situation, and of what he confronts should I rule against the hospital. Also, he should know that he is not in the hands of an impersonal bureaucracy. I shall explain to him that I am the one who will be making the decision in his best interests.

I had never read any of this author’s books before, in
Jul 17, 2014 Elyse rated it it was amazing
"My Lady is Captivating"!

"Adam Henry is Captivating"

This entire story is """CAPTIVATING"""!!!

Delicate Situations!!!!!!

Written with real energy --totally 'ALIVE'....

I've been a long time fan of Ian McEwan --and this small novel (with 5 parts) --confirms the depth and breadth of Ian's talents!
Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Find all of my reviews at:

Fiona is a successful, middle-aged, Family Court judge who finds herself being confronted by her husband about his desire to have an affair. In the midst of her marital turmoil, she must also preside over one of the most important cases in her career – that of a 17-year old Jehovah’s Witness who wishes to take his chances of surviving leukemia without receiving a life-saving blood transfusion due to his religious beliefs. Can she save
Fiona Maye is a High Court Judge in London, married to Jack, and an experienced pianist. Her fierce intelligence and immersion in her cases rendered the opinion of the Lord Chief Justice himself describing her as"Godly distance, devilish understanding, and still beautiful."

Almost sixty years old, Fiona finds herself in a failing marriage while presiding over a case in which a multi-talented 17-year-old teenager, a member of the Jehova's Witnesses religious group, refuses to receive blood transf
Sep 11, 2014 cameron rated it did not like it
I could just strangle Ian McEwan. I said the same thing after reading On Chesil Beach. While reading that book, which I bought NEW, I realized it had been a short story in the New Yorker to which he had added a few pages and then called it a book. It was a good short story but never enough for a book. I wrote him and chided him for the switch but to no avail.
The Children Act felt the same way to me. Maybe he's putting his kids through college and needs some quick dough. I thought the marriage p
Nov 08, 2014 ❀Julie rated it really liked it
I’m a big fan of Ian McEwan’s and found this to be another great read. The Children Act is more of a character study than courtroom drama, involving a family high court judge named Fiona and a difficult and sensitive medical case she is faced with regarding treatment that could save a seventeen-ear-old boy’s life. The consequences of her ruling of the case are at the heart of the story, but despite the sobering topic I did not find it to be a difficult read. In addition to Fiona’s career dilemma ...more
Diane S ☔
Jul 29, 2014 Diane S ☔ rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An author, I believe, takes a risk when he centers his novel around one character. So often a reader will rate their enjoyment of the book on whether or not they can relate to the character. In this story the main character is Fiona, approaching sixty she is a high court judge in the family court. She had given up the idea of having a child, concentrating on her career. She is long married to Jack, but their marriage has now hit a big road block.

In the beginning I felt a huge distance from the c
Aug 25, 2014 Marialyce rated it it was amazing
How truly utterly perfect was this story! The story was of a family court judge, her husband, her "on the rocks" marriage and the young man so tragically ill who came into her life and offered her love and the chance for redemption.

It was a beautiful story and one that sent goosebumps down your spine as the ending approached and try as you might you could not change it. Caught up in the turmoil that parents and religion can oftentimes put children through, the novel captures the true element of
Sep 05, 2015 Maxwell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
Perhaps an unconventional first McEwan novel to read, The Children Act is a tightly constructed, parable-like story of morality, religion, science and the decision of one woman amidst a marital crisis. We follow Fiona Maye, a London high court judge, who must make the decision of whether or not to treat 17-year-old Adam, a Jehovah's witness, with a blood transfusion; a decision that would go against his religious beliefs, but due to his being a minor, falls on the court's shoulders.

We focus muc
Sep 14, 2014 Kim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook

After being traumatised by The Child in Time when I read it in the late 1980s, I spent more than twenty five years avoiding Ian McEwan. I overcame my unreasonable fear of reading his work in the last couple of years and very much enjoyed On Chesil Beach and Sweet Tooth. So I embarked on this novel with some confidence that I would like it a lot.

The main protagonist, Fiona Maye, is a married woman in her late 50s. An English High Court judge in the Family Division, her day-to-day work requires h
Nov 24, 2014 Tatiana rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: contemporary, 2014
So incredibly banal in every way.

I am asking myself - how is this any different from what Jodi Picoult writes? The central conflict and the moral dilemmas at the core of this novel (a Jehovah's Wittness boy refusing a life-saving blood transfusion on religious grounds) are ripped not even from newspaper articles, but from a wiki page. Every argument in this book you've already read and heard, if you have any interest in the justice system or religious beliefs.

There is nothing new to ponder on he
Sep 27, 2016 Darwin8u rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
"I really am as good as dead to the world."
-- Friedrich Rückert, text for Mahler's Fünf Rückert-Lieder, no. 5.


Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen,
Mit der ich sonst viele Zeit verdorben,
Sie hat so lange von mir nichts vernommen,
Sie mag wohl glauben, ich sei gestorben.

Es ist mir auch gar nichts daran gelegen,
Ob sie mich für gestorben hält,
Ich kann auch gar nichts sagen dagegen,
Denn wirklich bin ich gestorben der Welt.

Ich bin gestorben dem Weltgewimmel,
Und ruh' in einem stillen Gebiet.
Ich leb' alle
Nov 24, 2014 Mona rated it liked it
At times I found this book cold and pointless. But it's the ending which really elevated it.

Fiona Maye, renowned British family court judge and sometime pianist, presides over a difficult court case involving an extraordinary boy, Adam Henry. The boy, precocious, lively, and beautiful has leukemia. Unless he has an emergency transfusion, he will most likely die. However, he and his family are Jehovah's witnesses. Receiving blood transfusions is against their religion.

Fiona has to preside over an
Oct 31, 2014 Trish rated it it was amazing
In calm, clear, patient English McEwan presents a particularly agonizing example of the stunning success and haunting failure of a juridical system, indeed, of a well-tempered, well-disciplined judicial mind. A transcendently wise decision over a matter of life and death cannot save a vital, loving, innocent teenaged boy without concomitant fulfilment of the obligation to prepare him for the world. McEwan’s prose is precise, alluring, devilish, revealing in a paragraph a history, in a pause an a ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Play Book Tag: The Children Act by Ian McEwan, 4 stars 3 13 Nov 03, 2016 10:59AM  
Around the Year i...: The Children Act, by Ian McEwan 3 38 Jan 31, 2016 02:57PM  
Der "Erwachsenen-...: 2. Abschnitt 6 15 Oct 02, 2015 11:09PM  
Der "Erwachsenen-...: 3. Abschnitt 3 8 Sep 30, 2015 06:55AM  
Der "Erwachsenen-...: 1. Abschnitt 9 11 Sep 30, 2015 01:09AM  
Der "Erwachsenen-...: * Abschnitte & Mitglieder 3 12 Sep 14, 2015 02:37AM  
  • The Man in the Wooden Hat (Old Filth, #2)
  • The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher
  • Thirteen Ways of Looking
  • Eyrie
  • The Children's Crusade
  • The Zone of Interest
  • The Lighthouse
  • Nora Webster
  • Mr Mac and Me
  • Instructions for a Heatwave
  • Thirty Girls
  • Levels of Life
  • A History of Loneliness
  • Clever Girl
  • A Map of Betrayal
  • Stone Mattress: Nine Tales
  • Friendswood
  • I Saw a Man
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
More about Ian McEwan...

Share This Book

“Blind luck, to arrive in the world with your properly formed parts in the right place, to be born to parents who were loving, not cruel, or to escape, by geographical or social accident, war or poverty. And therefore to find it so much easier to be virtuous.” 21 likes
“Everyone knew the urge to run from the world; few dared do it.” 9 likes
More quotes…