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November 18, 2014 / Leslie

Audiobook: The Children Act by Ian McEwan

A Rapid Review

ChildrenActThe Children Act by Ian McEwan

Publisher: Recorded Books | September 2014
Format: Audio CD | 6¼ hours | Rating: 3 stars
Audio Listening Level: Intermediate

In The Children Act, High Court judge Fiona Maye is buffeted by traumas both work related (religious beliefs stand between a boy and a life-saving blood transfusion) and domestic (Fiona’s husband leaves her after asking for an open marriage).

This character driven novel centers around two events – High Court judge Fiona’s crumbling marriage and a court decision she must make on the fate of a minor child who needs a life-saving blood transfusion against the wishes of his family. While this sounded like a story I would be interested in, ultimately I found it difficult to relate to, or care about, most of the characters. Try as I might, I could not get involved in this story.

While thoughtful and well-written, I found the story too slow and introspective, and I kept losing focus. Fiona spent much time agonizing over decisions made and not made in both her personal and professional life. This was a short novel so I pushed through it hoping the pace would pick up or I would become more engaged, but that didn’t happen until almost the end. The quality of the writing and the fact that in the final minutes the story redeemed itself, made the book worth finishing; but overall it was not a good fit or a satisfying listen for me.

There are many reviews praising this novel, and I’m sure others will enjoy it much more than I did.

Audio production:
The narrative was expertly read by Lindsay Duncan with the story unfolding in a linear time frame. This should have made it easy for me to follow, but instead I often found myself distracted and needed to go back a few minutes and listen again. This was partly due to the slow, at times cerebral, pacing of the story and partly to my own lack of interest in the characters. Listeners who engage in the story, however, should enjoy the audio.

An Under My Apple Tree Rapid Review
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher through LibraryThing.
© 2014 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.
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Leave a Comment
  1. Alex / Nov 18 2014 6:38 am

    I’ve tried with some of his other books to regain the magic of Atonement and On Chesil Beach, but my relationship with McEwan has been going downhill culminating in the unfinished Solar. Have been on the look out for reviews on this (strangely, there aren’t many), but unfortunately most people feel like you.


    • Leslie / Nov 18 2014 7:32 am

      I loved Atonement, which is my only other experience with McEwan. Maybe my expectations for this one were too high.


  2. BermudaOnion / Nov 18 2014 8:00 am

    I’ve heard a lot of great things about this book but I’ve hesitated to pick it up because I haven’t loved McEwan in the past. I’m going to have to think about this one for a while.


  3. laurelrainsnow / Nov 18 2014 9:18 am

    I actually enjoyed this one, and I was also quite disappointed by some of his later works, like Sweet Tooth. Perhaps I could engage with this one because of the issues that reminded me of my career as a social worker. Thanks for sharing!


    • Leslie / Nov 18 2014 10:06 am

      I can see where that would add an entire level of interest for you. I had little to relate to.


  4. Suko / Nov 18 2014 12:50 pm

    Leslie, thanks for sharing your honest thoughts about this audiobook. It sounds like an intense story. I had not heard of it before.


  5. Beth F / Nov 19 2014 3:21 pm

    I hate McEwan — I’ve read at least 3 of his novels and hated them all. I’ll never try again.


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