Ian McEwan will tackle the subject of parents who refuse medical treatment for their sick children on the basis of their religious beliefs, in his next novel The Children Act. Taking the perspective of a female High Court judge, McEwan's 16th novel has been partly inspired by real-life cases presided over by his friends.

Ian McEwanIan McEwan Will Publish 'The Children Act' in September

The title refers to the act that rules that "when a court determines any questions with respect to the upbringing of a child, the child's welfare shall be the court's paramount consideration."

Dan Franklin, McEwan's publisher at Jonathan Cape, said: "The Children Act is classic McEwan, demonstrating yet again his extraordinary ability to speak to both head and heart."

McEwan's strong atheist convictions are well known. During a talk at the Oxford Literary Festival in March, the author condemned the "utterly perverse and inhumane" decisions of some religious parents who allow their children to die instead of receiving treatment. "On the whole, the secular mind seems far superior in making reasonable judgments," he added.

"I'm not against religion in the sense that I feel I can't tolerate it," he noted, "but I think written into the rubric of religion is the certainty of its own truth. And since there are 6,000 religions currently on the face of the Earth, they can't all be right. And only the secular spirit can guarantee those freedoms, and it's the secular spirit that they contest."

McEwan remains one of Britain's foremost literary talents and has received 15 novels to widespread critical acclaim. His first collection of short stories, First Love, Last Rites, won the Somerset Maugham Awards in 1997 and he won the Man Booker Prize for Amsterdam in 1998.

The Children Act will be published by Jonathan Cape on September 4, 2014.

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