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A brilliant, emotionally wrenching new novel from the author of Atonement and Amsterdam.

A brilliant, emotionally wrenching new novel from the author of Atonement and Amsterdam.

Fiona Maye, a leading High Court judge, renowned for her fierce intelligence and sensitivity is called on to try an urgent case. For religious reasons, a seventeen-year-old boy is refusing the medical treatment that could save his life. Time is running out.

She visits the boy in hospital – an encounter which stirs long-buried feelings in her and powerful new emotions in the boy. But it is Fiona who must ultimately decide whether he lives or dies and her judgement will have momentous consequences for them both.

Longlisted for the IMPAC Prize


Compulsively readable... McEwan’s prose keeps its cutting edge and his books are the ones the reading public still crave… A masterly balance between research and imagination… One feels an immediate pleasure in returning to prose of uncommon clarity, unshowiness and control

The Times

Classic McEwan… It’s a pleasure from start to finish, one not to be interrupted


A powerful, humane novel

Evening Standard

One of the finest writers alive

Sunday Times

McEwan writes as beautifully and elegantly as ever, his prose quintessentially English in its restraint, one meticulously chosen word hinting at depths of emotion

Washington Post

A finely written, engaging read… Poignant, challenging and lyrical

Sunday Express

A class act by one of our finest novelists.

Viv Groskop, Red

A compelling moral dilemma [with] a moving and heartfelt denouement.


Shows McEwan as a master of fiction.

Olivia Cole

It is one most extraordinary, powerful, moving reading experiences of my life. It is an utterly remarkable novel, delicately balanced, perfectly crafted, beautifully written.

Alberto Manguel

Every word counts: one has the sense of a complicated piece of music played by a master soloist.

Christina Hardyment, The Times

A great writer. One of the most acute chroniclers of modern life and its discontents ... The Children Act is both gripping and highly topical…Entirely entrancing

Andrew Marr

Prose of uncommon clarity, unshowiness and control … Masterly

Kate Kellaway, Observer

Although thrillingly close to the child within us, McEwan nonetheless writes for, and about, the grown-ups. In a climate that breeds juvenile cynicism, we more than ever need his adult art.

Boyd Tonkin, Independent

McEwan brings to the analysis of justice a distinctive combination of literary skill, empathy and legal knowledge… A welcome addition to the class [of novels about judges].

David Pannick QC, The Times

A brave and enormously interesting subject.

Amanda Craig, Independent on Sunday

A dazzling tapestry… Another magnificent work by McEwan, important and meticulously crafted.

James McNair, National

A svelte novel as crisp and spotless as a priest’s collar.

Ron Charles, Washington Post

Pacy and gripping, with a fascinating premise… McEwan skillfully brings complexity and depth to the characters.


Beautifully told with pared-down emotional honesty, this 13th novel from the Booker Prize-winner is fiercely clever and incredibly moving.


A gripping new novel which brings into question morality, religion and the very nature of life itself.

Hunts Post

McEwan masterfully weaves a gripping personal story.

Peter Donaldson, Gazette (Colchester)

I feel that both Fiona and the boy somehow sort of transcended naturalistic character

Mark Ravenhill, Saturday Review

Emotionally wrenching and visceral.



Mail on Sunday

A short novel of great subtlety and tenderness.

UK Human Rights

Executed in his trademark elegant prose and is evidently meticulously researched.

Carla McKay, Daily Mail

Incredibly moving, intriguing and quite perfect as piece of fiction.

Bath Chronicle

Yet another worthy addition to his canon.

EasyJet Traveller

The small morning scenes between husband and wife are superb.

Catholic Herald

Moving, sad and delicate.

Joanna Kavenna, Prospect

True to life [as well as] being well-written.

Catherine Taylor, family solicitor, Latest Homes

Very deft, urgent and morally plangent.

Lewis Jones, Oldie

Impeccably crafted.

Stephanie Cross, Lady

He offers the reader a masterful study of a mind devoted to fairness… The Children Act is also a fascinating, painstakingly researched look inside the judicial process… Conveyed in crisp prose, this attention to detail elevates the moral conundrums…beyond the sensationalism lesser authors might have pursued. It is, in all respects, a novel that is carefully judged.

Irish Examiner

It explores the tension between cool-headed secularism and ardent belief. It is at times preposterous – and yet it has a magical readability and is slender enough to read in one intense, absorbing sitting.

Jason Cowley, New Statesman

If you have any unanswered letters on your desk, McEwan’s latest will have you grabbing your pen pronto.


The Children Act shows McEwan as a master of fiction who strives to teach us how to live.

Olivia Cole, GQ Magazine UK

Powerful and moving.

Sir David Bell, Times Higher Education

Taut, sparing and effortless, this is another exquisitely wrought novel from the master of the novella.

Good Book Guide

A subtly musical arrangement of urgently topical issues…it may be read at a sitting, but resonates for much longer.

Lewis Jones, Spectator

It’s absorbing and, almost a novella, it doesn’t outstay its welcome.

Nick Bevan, Times Higher Education

Definitely one of the best books I have read this year.

Natalie K. Watson, Church Times

This is a wonderful read with sharp, crystalline prose and, together with a superb moral dilemma, this is a beautiful and moving story.

Bath Chronicle

Offering a window into a compelling world of life or death dilemmas, this is told in prose as polished as you’d expect.

Daily Mail

The book is bursting of beautiful writing. You’ll want to read it all over again.

Kirsty Brimelow, The Times

A story of human behavior told in a raw, uncluttered, unforgiving way.

Cambridge News

Renowned author McEwan manages to surprise throughout this book, right to the last page.

Mayfair Magazine

A story of human behavior told in a raw, uncluttered, unforgiving way – and we could all have done with another couple of hundred pages.

Cambridge Magazine

McEwan writes in taut, sparing and effortless prose.

Good Book Guide

Ian McEwan writes stories of exquisite precision and clarity. This one is ace.

William Leith, Evening Standard

A page-turning novel

John Koski, Mail on Sunday

As one has come to expect, McEwan sets up the moral issues with delicacy and precision.

John Sutherland, The Times

Ian McEwan is at his most compelling with the story of Fiona Maye… Awesome

Marcus Field, Independent

A wonderfully readable and thought-provoking book

Kathryn Atkins, Bristol Magazine

A short novel that will linger in your mind for a long time

Woman’s Weekly

Another beautifully written masterpiece


relevant, emotive, moving, this is beautifully written and a guaranteed page turner

Matthew Smith, H Edition

One of our best authors at his best.

Murray Neil, Hertfordshire Life

One of my favourite authors… McEwan’s fascination with judicial issues, with music and poetry, and with the moral conundrum of how far you place your religious beliefs above the life of someone you love, all feature in this book which will leave you thinking long after you have finished it.

Frances Colville, Frost Magazine

It's an enjoyable and often surprising novella.

Charlotte Heathcote, Daily Express

It asks fundamental questions in a sober, intelligent way about the choices we make and our blindness when it comes to our beliefs.

Francois Ozon, film-maker, Observer

Here he is again: vulnerable, insightful, passionate and utterly in control. He’s amazing.

Robert Webb, Mail on Sunday

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Formats & editions

  • Paperback


    May 1, 2015


    224 pages

    RRP $26.00

    Online retailers

    • Fishpond
    • Mighty Ape
    • Paper Plus
    • The Warehouse
    • Whitcoulls
    • The Nile

    Find your local bookstore at www.booksellers.co.nz/directory

  • Audio CD


    September 15, 2014


    RRP $39.99

    Online retailers

    • Fishpond
    • Mighty Ape
    • Paper Plus
    • The Warehouse
    • Whitcoulls
    • The Nile

    Find your local bookstore at www.booksellers.co.nz/directory

  • EBook


    September 4, 2014

    Vintage Digital

    224 pages

    Online retailers

    • iBooks NZ
    • Amazon Kindle
    • Google Play
    • Kobo
    • Booktopia NZ
  • Paperback


    October 29, 2018


    224 pages

    RRP $26.00

    Online retailers

    • Fishpond
    • Mighty Ape
    • Paper Plus
    • The Warehouse
    • Whitcoulls
    • The Nile

    Find your local bookstore at www.booksellers.co.nz/directory



London. Trinity term one week old. Implacable June weather. Fiona Maye, a High Court judge, at home on Sunday evening, supine on a chaise longue, staring past her stockinged feet towards the end of the room, towards a partial view of recessed bookshelves by the fireplace and, to one side, by a tall window, a tiny Renoir lithograph of a bather, bought by her thirty years ago for fifty pounds. Probably a fake. Below it, centred on a round walnut table, a blue vase. No memory of how she came by it. Nor when she last put flowers in it. The fireplace not lit in a year. Blackened raindrops falling irregularly into the grate with a ticking sound against balled-up yellowing newsprint. A Bokhara rug spread on wide polished floorboards. Looming at the edge of vision, a baby grand piano bearing silver-framed family photos on its deep black shine. On the floor by the chaise longue, within her reach, the draft of a judgment. And Fiona was on her back, wishing all this stuff at the bottom of the sea.

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Book Clubs
The Children Act Book Club Notes

A memorable book club choice: Ian McEwan’s The Children Act.