By: Ian McEwan
“Parents choosing a school for their children—an innocent, important, humdrum, private affair which a lethal blend of bitter division and too much money had transmuted into a monstrous clerical task, into box files of legal documents so numerous and heavy they were hauled to court on trolleys, into hours of educated wrangling, procedural hearings, deferred decisions, the whole circus rising, but so slowly, through the judicial hierarchy like a lopsided, ill-tethered hot-air balloon. If the parents could not agree, the law, reluctantly, must take the decisions.”
“The Children Act” doesn’t enact the happy triumph of humanism. Instead, it recognizes how fragile we all are and how cautious we should be about disrupting another’s well-ordered universe. As Emily Dickinson warned, “The Truth must dazzle gradually/ Or every man be blind.” Given its odd subject matter, this is unlikely to be anyone’s favorite McEwan novel, but with its mix of arcane expertise, emotional intensity and especially its attention to the ever-surprising misdirections of the heart, it’s another notable volume from one of the finest writers alive.