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The City Of Invention

The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney

A Conflict Between Rationality And Irrationality

By Ian McEwan The Children Act - Ian McEwan

Seventeen year old Adam has leukaemia and  needs a blood transfusion but his family are Jehovah's Witnesses. Fifty-nine year old Fiona, a judge in the Family Circuit, is obliged to arbitrate. So begins an entanglement that will have dire consequences for them both.


Ian McEwan's latest novella is written in crystalline prose with an economy of narrative technique that is rare in contemporary fiction. Everything about it is precisely measured and strictly controlled.


As with much of his recent fiction, the characterisations sometimes seems to be the product of the moral argument rather than the other way round, emblematic of a conflict between rationality and irrationality that is going on all around us while we we are preoccupied with our everyday pursuits. But the characters themselves are solidly delineated, their lives feel entirely real and the tragedy that overwhelms them resonates compellingly.