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Christopher Hitchens (#110 of 20)

Review: Ian McEwan’s The Children Act

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Review: Ian McEwan’s The Children Act
Review: Ian McEwan’s The Children Act

Christopher Hitchens dedicated his book God Is Not Great to his friend Ian McEwan. And in the acknowledgements, he explains the choice:

Over many years I have pursued these questions with Ian McEwan, whose body of fiction shows an extraordinary ability to elucidate the numinous without conceding anything to the supernatural. He has subtly demonstrated that the natural is wondrous enough for anyone.

A quick survey of McEwan’s book shows that, yes, his characters all seem to function in a world in which religion simply isn’t a part of the equation. At most, it remains peripheral, not part of the characters’ narrative arc.

But now we have The Children Act, McEwan’s new novel, which deals directly with the role of religion in a character’s life. Fiona Maye, a High Court judge in London, is presented with a complex case in the family court over which she presides. A boy, nearly 18, has leukemia, but his parents, strict Jehovah’s Witnesses, refuse to allow their son a blood transfusion. The father explains their reasoning: “Mixing your blood with the blood of an animal or another human being is pollution, contamination. It’s a rejection of the Creator’s wonderful gift.” Technically, since the boy isn’t 18 yet, his parents have the right, but that doesn’t really matter since the boy, too, refuses the transfusion.