Book Club: The Children Act by Ian McEwan

Sometimes I can’t help but think that Ian McEwan is a one-hit wonder. It pains me to say this.

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I often say that Ian McEwan is one of my favourite authors, but I don’t think I can say that anymore. He is the author of one of my favourite books, Atonement, and some others (On Chesil Beach is also very good). The latest two, however, Sweet Tooth and The Children Act, have largely fallen flat.

The Children Act is about a Judge named Fiona Maye who presides over the Family Law Courts. She has a husband in the throes of a mid-life crisis who has set her aside for someone younger. It’s hard to take her seriously because she is completely devoid of real human emotions. She shows such little distress over her husband leaving her, and even less when he comes crawling back with his tail between his legs. I think an irreconcilable difference warrants at least a conversation. She is in charge of standing up for vulnerable persons in society, and yet, she cannot even stand up for herself. I have a hard time warming up to weak characters (Bella Swan, I’m looking at you) and who wants to identify with a weak hero/heroine anyway?!

There are a few flashbacks to reveal the character’s back story, in the usual McEwan style that I love so much. But Fiona’s character is so flat, I cannot even begin to comprehend her motivations or actions. Her husband’s character is not explored at all. He seems little more than a placeholder. If we had more to go on, it might be more plausible to understand their actions. I can barely accept that, in the throes of a mid-life crisis of her own, she becomes attracted to a dying teenager, based on one half-hour, lackluster encounter at his hospital bedside. The book makes very little sense, overall, and it is such a shame because it really had such potential.

I tried with Sweet Tooth, and again with The Children Act, and maybe I’ll give him one more shot. Unfortunately, I feel like having “A Novel by the Author of ATONEMENT” stamped on the front cover is now simply carte blanche to publish whatever collection of disjointed half-thoughts you want, whether they are good or not.

 

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A New Chapter

Entering that phase of life where I talk a lot about how much I love my Kindle and how I am really into Decaf. 

Dear friends, something has happened to me. Suddenly, overnight it seems, I stopped reading paperbacks and stopped drinking caffeine.

This is only partly true, but it feels like a big change. I have a new Kindle. It is handy and adorable and portable and useful. The first book I read was #GIRLBOSS. I devoured it in less than 48hrs, hoping for a sense of depth or gravitas that did not come. Sophia Amoruso shared some dark moments, maybe too many or maybe not dark enough, because I anticipated feeling shocked and inspired but the sensation was dulled. Sure, she went through some tough times, but they were skimmed over and trivialized in order to make way for the glow of her literal rags-to-riches success. It is easy to look back on those hard times through rose-coloured glasses when you are safe and comfortable in the present.

Next, I bought Catherine, Called Birdy. A book I wish I had growing up because I just know that I would have loved it. It’s about a young girl coming of age in England in the 1200s. I also heard a rumour that Lena Dunham is trying to adapt this book into a movie. I can’t think of anything more up my alley.

And somewhere along the way, I realized that I need to cut waaay back on the amount of coffee I drink. My usual intake is something like 1-2 cups of coffee or tea while I get ready for the day and eat breakfast; 1 cup on the way to work/traveling; 1 cup in the morning; 1 cup at lunch; and if it is an especially tiresome day, one more in the afternoon. And maybe/probably one more on the way home or with a friend or after dinner. I was drinking coffee constantly for 12hrs straight! It’s really no wonder I seemed to be plagued by insomnia. I don’t even drink it for the effects, I drink coffee for the flavour. I developed a serious bad habit in college and university where I couldn’t start a class unless I had a hot beverage nearby. Having a paper cup glued to my hand at all times seems second nature.

I have made a conscious effort in the last two months to really cut down and totally eliminate any caffeine after 12pm. One, maybe two cups a day tops and I’ve been trying to switch to Decaf where possible. I’ll try to track the changes in my energy and alertness during the day, and to see if there is any direct correlation when I’m trying to fall asleep.

So with that, I will continue to trudge through this snowy February with my little tablet in one hand and a decaf Americano in the other. Results to follow.

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