I've been a bit of a moany pants about book group reads lately, generally we've not been reading books I've been that excited by. Perhaps I've been judging them before I even get going but honestly, these two books weren't great hits with the group either.
The Children Act is a book of two parts. I found the medical and family law parts fascinating; how far can the law go in intervening in someone’s life? When does a child have the right to decide what happens to them and so they have the right to let themselves die?
It’s sadly let down by the domestic side. We have this amazingly successful woman, who starts to wonder if she’s failed as a woman because she never had children. Reading that made me so angry. I think she had definitely won at being a woman.
The opening scene sees her husband request an open marriage, or at least permission to have an affair. It’s been seven weeks since they last had sex so that seems to justify it for him. On one hand, I can see it’s frustrating for him that she’s not been herself, more withdrawn from usual, and she won’t talk about it, but the way he behaves was a bit of a leap. He asks to talk about what’s troubling her after asking for the affair. Fiona has been struggling with some of the decisions she’s made and I can only imagine the dampening affect her job would have on her sex life.
Where the story goes in relation to Fiona and Adam a little uncomfortable. Perhaps Fiona was supposed to be having a midlife crisis as well as her husband, but it seemed irresponsible for someone of such high standing. A judge is nothing without their good judgement after all.
The story starts with a hit and run accident in Bristol, in which a young boy is killed. There's very little for the police to go on but they throw all they've got into the investigation. No one can fathom the kind of person who would flee the scene without helping.
In the meantime, Jenna has fled to a remote cottage in Wales, where somehow she starts a successful business selling photos of words she writes in the sand. It's bit of a pet peeve how people in books effortlessly manage to make a living doing something fun that realistically wouldn't pay well, unless you got famous for it. In her defense, her savings are mentioned on a few occasions but it also is made to seem like she's doing OK.
So at the point I was thinking about quitting and going to book group with my tail between my legs, things start to get interesting. Actually when Jenna's narration starts, I assumed she was what is revealed at this point anyway. So I did feel a bit confused. It goes to so much effort trying to lead the reader astray that it didn't quite work.
Yet I was pulled in a lot more by this point and I do think the aspect around domestic abuse was done well. We see the viewpoint of the abuser instead of the abused, how they try to justify things. The slow build up from things that could be overlooked to the unforgivable.
Things got a bit ridiculous at the end on a couple of counts. I didn't think the police personal lives side was necessary however I get the feeling it could be setting up for a series with the same characters. I'm not sure I liked them enough to want to read more about them though.
So what are we reading next? Well I've managed to sneak one of my nominations in; Memory of Water by Emmi Itäranta is April's read. Next month we're reading another book with a watery theme, The Well by Catherine Chanter which is set in a drought ridden near-future and then for March we're reading A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler.
If you're interested in coming along to Bournemouth Book Club you can find more details on our Facebook group.