HYPE Book Club - The Children Act

Apr 12, 2015

We had a great first meeting of the HYPE Book Club. We kicked it off with Ian McEwan's The Children Act, and discussed it over brunch at Agave Hartford.

Synopsis: 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 is expert in considering the sensitivities of culture and religion when handing down her verdicts. But Fiona's professional success belies domestic strife. Her husband, Jack, asks her to consider an open marriage and, after an argument, moves out of their house. His departure leaves her adrift, wondering whether it was not love she had lost so much as a modern form of respectability; whether it was not contempt and ostracism she really fears. She decides to throw herself into her work, especially a complex case involving a seventeen-year-old boy whose parents will not permit a lifesaving blood transfusion because it conflicts with their beliefs as Jehovah's Witnesses. But Jack doesn't leave her thoughts, and the pressure to resolve the case—as well as her crumbling marriage—tests Fiona in ways that will keep readers thoroughly enthralled until the last stunning page. (GoodReads)

We discussed three main questions:

1. Fiona's husband Jack proposes seeking intimacy outside of their marriage. He blames her dedication to work as the cause for wanting to look elsewhere. In response, she surrounds herself with her work, 'as a form of protection. Without them she would not know what to do with herself' p 126. Do you agree with Jack? What would you say in response to a request like this from  your partner?

The group agreed that Fiona and Jack lack communication in their relationship. While we're only getting the story from Fiona's point of view, we assume this is the first she's heard of a request like this or hearing that Jack is unhappy. So while he tries to tell her what he needs, he does it in the wrong way by asking to have an affair. Did Jack actually want the affair? Was this just a last ditch attempt to pull Fiona back to him?

The group saw Fiona and Jack as two people who grew on separate paths, rather than growing together. The book contained several coming of age stories, two of which are Jack and Fiona's. She's turning 60, and it seems like she has a moment of, "How did I get here?".

2. Fiona's ultimate decision is to save Adam's life, against both his and his parents' wishes. Adam, in turn, becomes obsessed with Fiona. Is Fiona to blame for what ultimately happens to Adam? How would you have approached the relationship with Adam if you were her?

The group agreed that the problem started when she went to see him. While they thought it was the human thing to do, it went against all protocol, and those were protocols for a reason. She didn't behave like an authority figure while she was there, and the boundaries started to gray at that time.

While Fiona may have been a contributing factor for what happened to Adam, the group agreed that she was not the whole factor. She should have behaved differently from start to finish, but she can't be wholly blamed.

3. The title refers to the 1989 Children's Act, which enshrines the child's welfare as the 'paramount consideration' in any court. Knowing all of the plot lines that occur and all of the characters, does the title seem appropriate for the book?

Our book club couldn't think of a better title, and thought that The Children Act was great in many ways. The obvious one, being that Fiona is deciding the welfare of Adam, makes sense. The group also thought that many of the characters did in fact act like children, so that works as well. Also, the book is only 5 chapters long, which could translate to 5 acts of a play.

What did you think about the book? Let us know and keep the discussion going! And check out photos from the event on Facebook.

1 Comment

  1. 1 Julia 17 Apr
    The obvious one, being that Fiona is deciding the welfare of Adam, makes sense.


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