I received a copy of this book from the publisher from Blogging for Books. No compensation was paid for this review and this review contains my personal opinions of the book.
Brendan Koerner chose an interesting subject for his book. Prior to 9/11, flying was much easier. It was also much easier to hijack an airplane. I was a small child in the 1970s, which Koerner coins as the golden age of hijacking. Airline hijacking was fairly common in those days. Most people remember D.B. Cooper, who hijacked a plane, got a bunch of money, parachuted from the plane and was never heard from again.
Mr. Koerner focuses on the story Catherine Kerkow and Roger Holder, who met briefly when they were kids, got together as adults and hijacked an airliner, which eventually took them to Algiers, Algeria. Kerkow went to France and disappeared. Holder was eventually captured. The book follows their path. They were both children of the 60s and felt revolutionary urges.
You can tell from reading the book that Koerner has done extensive research and the subject matter itself is interesting. I have vague memories of hijackings on the news. I read the whole book, and while I liked it, I felt that it drug in places. I liked reading it, but it was hard to finish. The book was okay. Just okay.
I have been a fan of Ian McEwan since I read Saturday. I won an autographed copy of Sweet Tooth earlier this year but haven’t read it yet. I read an interview with McEwan about how the Children Act came to be and I knew I was going to read it. He was talking to a judge who was telling him about a case very similar to the one he presents in the book. I figure anything about the British legal system would be interesting and McEwan’s style would make it lyrical. I was right on both counts.
The story is about Fiona Maye, a family court judge in London. She is married to Jack, a university professor. As the book opens, Jack tells Fiona that he wants to have an affair, but still stay married to Fiona. She is, naturally, outraged, and refuses the idea. He packs his bag and leaves. She then receives a call that there has been an emergency petition filed by a hospital in London to give a 17 year old Leukemia patient a blood transfusion that both he and his parents are refusing on religious grounds – they are Jehovah’s Witnesses and the religion strictly forbids blood transfusions. The transfusion is needed because of two of the drugs Adam, the patient, needs in order to survive. Fiona makes the rather unusual decision to visit the boy in the hospital.
She and the social worker assigned to the case visit Adam. Fiona is impressed with his wit and intelligence and listens to him play the violin and even sings a song with him playing along. The rest of the book is about the ramifications of Fiona’s decision.
I do not want to talk about the rest of the plot because I do not want to ruin it for anyone who reads the books. The book left me feeling unsettled. It left me asking some questions of myself. Would I ever put my religious faith above that of the health of my child? (Never). How can someone have so much faith? How does one practice a religion that would allow a child to die when the death could be prevented? There are no answers. And I certainly do not mock anyone’s beliefs. Neither does Ian McEwan. He writes a very thoughtful and thought-provoking book, while managing to not make fun of or degrade the religion at issue. The book certainly made me think.
Ian McEwan is one writer who causes me to get lost in language. He writes almost like a poet. He is a compact writer – he is not overly wordy, but still manages to convey a great deal of detail with few words. I love that about him. He can describe Fiona’s apartment in London and I can see it perfectly in my mind’s eye.
The Children Act is about religion, culture, coming of age, love, middle age, life, death and faith. It is not judgmental about any of its themes, but tells a beautiful story.