Saturday, 28 August 2021

Post 3 - The Children Act

I love Ian McEwan (particularly Black Dogs from 2017) so readily picked out 'The Children Act' when we trawled the other week (and am very curious to see the film now too). In it Fiona and Jack's marriage is on the line, as is the life of a young man, and both are in Fiona's hands. She is a high court judge. I was a bit hesitant at first but it was fascinating (and presumably incredibly well researched) to see the inside of such a job, the inside of the legal world that is so hidden. Fiona must make a decision concerning medical treatment for Adam, who, as a Jehovah's Witness, is refusing a blood transfusion, with the support of his parents. What I enjoyed was watching her decision making process, all the things she took into consideration, all the things she learned about along the way. And then there was this contrast of Fiona in her private life, where she is so uncertain and acts impulsively. I loved it for the complexity and ambiguity of the character. It is everything you want from literary fiction, real people, moral dilemma and genuine human emotion. And then there are consequences to her decisions, both good and not so good, and that is real too, because in life there are consequences, often unforeseen. 
Quote, (but I was not convinced that a high court judge would be obliged to drink bad coffee in a plastic cup from a machine):

"On a furious impulse, she pulled out her phone, scrolled through the numbers to their locksmith on the Gray's Inn Road, gave her four-digit PIN, then instruction for a change of lock. Of course, madam, right away. They held details of the existing lock. New keys to be delivered to the Strand today and nowhere else. Then, proceeding rapidly, hot plastic cup in her free hand, fearful of changing her mind, she called the Deputy Director of Estates, a gruff good-natured fellow, to let him know to expect a locksmith. So, she was bad, and feeling good about being bad. There must be a price for leaving her and here it was, to be in exile, a supplicant to his previous life. She would not permit him the luxury of two addresses.
Coming back along the corridor with her cup, she was already wondering at her ridiculous transgression, obstructing her husband from rightful access, one of the clichés of marital breakdown, one that an instructing solicitor would advise a client - generally the wife - against in the absence of a court order. A professional life spent above the affray, advising then judging, loftily commenting in private on the viciousness and absurdity of divorcing couples, and now she was down there with the rest, swimming with the desolate tide." (p.48-9)

Also this one, when she goes to the hospital to talk directly to Adam:
"As he said this, looking at her directly, with no particular challenge in his voice, she believed him completely, he and his parents, the congregation and the elders knew what was right for them. She felt unpleasantly light-headed, emptied out, all meaning gone. The blasphemous notion came to her that it didn't much matter either way whether the boy lived or died. Everything would be much the same. Profound sorrow, bitter regret perhaps, fond memories, then life would plunge on and all three would mean less and less as those who loved him aged and died, until they meant nothing at all. Religions, moral systems, her own included, were like peaks in a dense mountain range seen from a  great distance, none obviously higher, more important, truer than another. What was to judge?" (p.112)

Stay safe. Be kind. Read some Ian McEwan.

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