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3.1 95
by Ian McEwan

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In his triumphant new novel, Ian McEwan, the bestselling author of Atonement, follows an ordinary man through a Saturday whose high promise gradually turns nightmarish. Henry Perowne–a neurosurgeon, urbane, privileged, deeply in love with his wife and grown-up children–plans to play a game of squash, visit his elderly mother, and cook dinner for


In his triumphant new novel, Ian McEwan, the bestselling author of Atonement, follows an ordinary man through a Saturday whose high promise gradually turns nightmarish. Henry Perowne–a neurosurgeon, urbane, privileged, deeply in love with his wife and grown-up children–plans to play a game of squash, visit his elderly mother, and cook dinner for his family. But after a minor traffic accident leads to an unsettling confrontation, Perowne must set aside his plans and summon a strength greater than he knew he had in order to preserve the life that is dear to him.

Editorial Reviews

Novelist Ian McEwan's dazzling piece of post-9/11 fiction follows a London neurosurgeon through a day that begins with an ominous portent, settles into routine, and then explodes in a single act of unexpected violence. Capturing the anxiety of a world on orange alert, McEwan exhibits typical subtlety as he steers the story toward its shattering denouement. Saturday is a study in narrative tension that shames most so-called thrillers.
Michael Dirda
… there's little question that McEwan is supremely gifted and knows all the tricks and sleights of fiction. His latest novel, Saturday, might be a textbook example of how to generate a growing sense of disquiet with the tiniest finger-flicks of detail -- a broken mirror, a flash of red, two figures on a park bench. Slowly, readers may start to guess what will happen, but not how or when or to whom. McEwan makes us wait, lulls us into thinking we might be mistaken, and then -- just as we're feeling relaxed, bathed in well-being as after a big glass of wine -- he springs.
— The Washington Post
Michiko Kakutani
Though Saturday is too indebted to Mrs. Dalloway to resonate with the fierce originality of the author's last book, Atonement, it's clear that with this volume, Mr. McEwan has not only produced one of the most powerful pieces of post-9/11 fiction yet published, but also fulfilled that very primal mission of the novel: to show how we - a privileged few of us, anyway - live today.
— The New York Times
Library Journal
His mood somewhat dampened by the impending war in Iraq, a London neurosurgeon heads out to play squash-and ends up offending a local thug. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An increasingly mellowed but no less gripping McEwan (Atonement, 2002, etc.) portrays a single day in the life of a well-off upper-middle-class Londoner, blessed in every conceivable way. While crowds mass to protest the coming invasion of Iraq, Henry Perowne, a 48-year-old neurosurgeon at the top of his game, intelligent and self-aware, goes about a Saturday that's by turns mundane and marvelous. We follow his reflections on surgeries, so well detailed as to be med-porn; lazy lovemaking upon awakening, and restorative sex at the end of the day with smart, devoted, lawyer wife Rosalind (he notes his unusual luck in still wanting no one else); a sometimes savage squash game with friend and partner Jay; a sad visit to his senile mother; and shopping for dinner. A chance encounter with Baxter, an intelligent young thug, provides the small plot; Henry escapes a mugging when he recognizes early signs of Huntington's in the lad and takes control. That evening, at Henry's well-appointed townhouse, in the warm glow of gathered family-father-in-law John Grammaticus, towering poet turned to drink; son Theo, a gifted young blues guitarist; daughter Daisy, a poet visiting from Paris, newly published and newly pregnant-Baxter returns and holds Rosalind at knifepoint. Terrorized and terrified, the family, through their various strengths, overcome Baxter, who lands in the hospital requiring emergency surgery from the forgiving Henry. Comprised by an active awareness of his place in the world, of his love for family and work, and of the contingencies that make his life his own, and that make Baxter's life his own, Henry's thoughts-especially since they're informed also by a matter-of-fact understandingof the neurological processes that emerge as behavior and look like choice-envelop us in a total immersion experience. A sort of middle-class humanist manifesto: when you find yourself fortunate beyond all measure in a random universe, gratitude, generosity, and compassion are a decent response.
From the Publisher
“Dazzling. . . . Powerful. . . . McEwan has shown how we . . . live today.” –The New York Times“Finely wrought and shimmering with intelligence.” –The New York Times Book Review“McEwan is supremely gifted. . . . Saturday is a tightly wound tour de force.” –The Washington Post Book World“This extraordinary book is not a political novel. It is a novel about consciousness that illuminates the sources of politics.” –The NationSaturday is an exemplary novel, engrossing and sustained. It is undoubtedly McEwan’s best.” –The Spectator“Read the last 100 pages at one sitting–the pace and the thrill allow it. . . . Exhilarating.” –Los Angeles Times Book Review“Virtuosic. . . . Brilliantly macabre and suspenseful. . . . [A] fine novel.” –The Wall Street Journal“McEwan is in the first tier of novelists writing in English today. . . . He has achieved a complete mastery of his craft.” –The New York Observer“This is McEwan at the height of his powers. . . . More audacious than Atonement.” –The Baltimore Sun“In Saturday, the marvelously gifted Ian McEwan turns a single day into nearly twenty-four hours emblematic of an entire era.” –Chicago Tribune“One of the most powerful pieces of post—9/11 fiction yet published.” –The New York Times“Complex, suspenseful. . . . This novel . . . reinforces Ian McEwan’s status as the supreme novelist of his generation.” –The Sunday Times (London)“Engrossing. . . . A thoughtful, measured and mature look at our world today. . . . [McEwan’s] skill at weaving together suspense, psychological depth and beautiful prose makes him among Britain’s best.” –The Atlanta Journal-Constitution“A major event. . . . Saturday proceeds serenely into very different territory where the most secure existence is ringed by sinister possibilities.” –Time“Thoroughly fascinating. . . . For sheer intelligence and skill, it’s hard to beat Ian McEwan’s Saturday.” –The Philadelphia Inquirer“Impeccable. . . . Beautifully crafted. . . . Fluid, richly textured. . . . Engrossing.” –Entertainment Weekly“Read this book. . . . On the level of the sentence, McEwan is smart, witty and insightful. . . . His writing astounds. . . . Saturday is almost too good to bear.” –The Times-Picayune“Utterly enthralling. . . . Stunningly orderly and harmonious.” –The Seattle Times“Magnificently imagined.” –San Francisco Chronicle“A brilliant work. . . . Astoundingly enjoyable.” –O, The Oprah Magazine“McEwan’s special achievement . . . is not only to give his narrative . . . near-hallucinatory clarity and verisimilitude, but also to make you realize that the world of his novel is our world. It’s a book of poignant insight into the temper of the times. . . . And it’s something rare and precious: a wise book.” –San Jose Mercury News“Hypnotic. . . . Exquisitely detailed, rich and suspenseful, literate and surprisingly explosive.” –The Miami Herald“McEwan’s sentences are perfect, and his novels are always powerful and intelligent.” –People“Sober yet scintillating. . . . Lucidly shows us that civilization and culture and the life of the mind, fragile as they seemingly are, nonetheless have a resilience that can outlast barbarism.” –Christopher Hitchens, The Atlantic Monthly“A magnificent new novel that captures both the comforts and the anxieties of the world we live in right now.” –Vogue“The distinctive achievement of McEwan’s work has been to marry literary seriousness and ambition with a pace and momentum more commonly associated with genre fiction. He is the master clockmaker of novelists, piecing together cogs and wheels of his plots with unerring meticulousness.” –The New York Times Book Review“Marvelous. . . . A magical book. . . . McEwan shows again the quiet brilliance of his prose and his insights.” –Detroit Free Press“Captivating. . . . The prose is so precise and evocative the reader can ‘see’ the scenes unfolding. . . . [McEwan] is at the top of his game.” –The Denver Post

Product Details

Knopf Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)

Read an Excerpt


Some hours before dawn Henry Perowne, a neurosurgeon, wakes to find himself already in motion, pushing back the covers from a sitting position, and then rising to his feet. It’s not clear to him when exactly he became conscious, nor does it seem relevant. He’s never done such a thing before, but he isn’t alarmed or even faintly surprised, for the movement is easy, and pleasurable in his limbs, and his back and legs feel unusually strong. He stands there, naked by the bed – he always sleeps naked – feeling his full height, aware of his wife’s patient breathing and of the wintry bedroom air on his skin. That too is a pleasurable sensation. His bedside clock shows three forty. He has no idea what he’s doing out of bed: he has no need to relieve himself, nor is he disturbed by a dream or some element of the day before, or even by the state of the world. It’s as if, standing there in the darkness, he’s materialised out of nothing, fully formed, unencumbered. He doesn’t feel tired, despite the hour or his recent labours, nor is his conscience troubled by any recent case. In fact, he’s alert and empty-headed and inexplicably elated. With no decision made, no motivation at all, he begins to move towards the nearest of the three bedroom windows and experiences such ease and lightness in his tread that he suspects at once he’s dreaming or sleepwalking. If it is the case, he’ll be disappointed. Dreams don’t interest him; that this should be real is a richer possibility. And he’s entirely himself, he is certain of it, and he knows that sleep is behind him: to know the difference between it and waking, to know the boundaries, is the essence of sanity.

The bedroom is large and uncluttered. As he glides across it with almost comic facility, the prospect of the experience ending saddens him briefly, then the thought is gone. He is by the centre window, pulling back the tall folding wooden shutters with care so as not to wake Rosalind. In this he’s selfish as well as solicitous. He doesn’t wish to be asked what he’s about – what answer could he give, and why relinquish this moment in the attempt? He opens the second shutter, letting it concertina into the casement, and quietly raises the sash window. It is many feet taller than him, but it slides easily upwards, hoisted by its concealed lead counterweight. His skin tightens as the February air pours in around him, but he isn’t troubled by the cold. From the second floor he faces the night, the city in its icy white light, the skeletal trees in the square, and thirty feet below, the black arrowhead railings like a row of spears. There’s a degree or two of frost and the air is clear. The streetlamp glare hasn’t quite obliterated all the stars; above the Regency façade on the other side of the square hang remnants of constellations in the southern sky. That particular façade is a reconstruction, a pastiche – wartime Fitzrovia took some hits from the Luftwaffe – and right behind is the Post Office Tower, municipal and seedy by day, but at night, half-concealed and decently illuminated, a valiant memorial to more optimistic days.

And now, what days are these? Baffled and fearful, he mostly thinks when he takes time from his weekly round to consider. But he doesn’t feel that now. He leans forwards, pressing his weight onto his palms against the sill, exulting in the emptiness and clarity of the scene. His vision – always good – seems to have sharpened. He sees the paving stone mica glistening in the pedestrianised square, pigeon excrement hardened by distance and cold into something almost beautiful, like a scattering of snow. He likes the symmetry of black cast-iron posts and their even darker shadows, and the lattice of cobbled gutters. The overfull litter baskets suggest abundance rather than squalor; the vacant benches set around the circular gardens look benignly expectant of their daily traffic – cheerful lunchtime office crowds, the solemn, studious boys from the Indian hostel, lovers in quiet raptures or crisis, the crepuscular drug dealers, the ruined old lady with her wild, haunting calls. Go away! she’ll shout for hours at a time, and squawk harshly, sounding like some marsh bird or zoo creature.

Standing here, as immune to the cold as a marble statue, gazing towards Charlotte Street, towards a foreshortened jumble of façades, scaffolding and pitched roofs, Henry thinks the city is a success, a brilliant invention, a biological masterpiece – millions teeming around the accumulated and layered achievements of the centuries, as though around a coral reef, sleeping, working, entertaining themselves, harmonious for the most part, nearly everyone wanting it to work. And the Perownes’ own corner, a triumph of congruent proportion; the perfect square laid out by Robert Adam enclosing a perfect circle of garden – an eighteenth-century dream bathed and embraced by modernity, by street light from above, and from below by fibre-optic cables, and cool fresh water coursing down pipes, and sewage borne away in an instant of forgetting.

An habitual observer of his own moods, he wonders about this sustained, distorting euphoria. Perhaps down at the molecular level there’s been a chemical accident while he slept – something like a spilled tray of drinks, prompting dopamine-like receptors to initiate a kindly cascade of intracellular events; or it’s the prospect of a Saturday, or the paradoxical consequence of extreme tiredness. It’s true, he finished the week in a state of unusual depletion. He came home to an empty house, and lay in the bath with a book, content to be talking to no one. It was his literate, too literate daughter Daisy who sent the biography of Darwin which in turn has something to do with a Conrad novel she wants him to read and which he has yet to start – seafaring, however morally fraught, doesn’t much interest him. For some years now she’s been addressing what she believes is his astounding ignorance, guiding his literary education, scolding him for poor taste and insensitivity. She has a point – straight from school to medical school to the slavish hours of a junior doctor, then the total absorption of neurosurgery training spliced with committed fatherhood – for fifteen years he barely touched a non-medical book at all. On the other hand, he thinks he’s seen enough death, fear, courage and suffering to supply half a dozen literatures. Still, he submits to her reading lists – they’re his means of remaining in touch as she grows away from her family into unknowable womanhood in a suburb of Paris; tonight she’ll be home for the first time in six months – another cause for euphoria.

Meet the Author

Ian McEwan is the bestselling author of more than ten books, including the novels Atonement, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award and the W. H. Smith Literary Award, The Comfort of Strangers and Black Dogs, both shortlisted for the Booker Prize, Amsterdam, winner of the Booker Prize, and The Child in Time, winner of the Whitbread Award, as well as the story collections First Love, Last Rites, winner of the Somerset Maugham Award, and In Between the Sheets. He has also written screenplays, plays, television scripts, a children’s book, and the libretto for an oratorio. He lives in London.

Brief Biography

Oxford, England
Date of Birth:
June 21, 1948
Place of Birth:
Aldershot, England
B.A., University of Sussex, 1970; M.A., University of East Anglia, 1971

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Saturday 3.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 95 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
After reading Atonement, I felt that McEwan had done it--written a novel that could not be topped. I was wrong. Saturday, in its own way, is just as good if not better than Atonement merely in its ability to create tension out of thin air.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had to read this for a literature class, and having read a synopsis of the book, I was very excited. This excitment, however, turned to disapointment as the book dragged on forever. Not only does the author make the characters over anyalize things, but he also assumes that his audidence will understand extreemly difficult medical terms that he himself only learned while shadowing a neurological surgeon. This novel is also very confusing because it jumps around constantly between scenes, characters, and time periods.
Maximillian More than 1 year ago
The critics love this book and this author. I am an avid reader and I am not ignorant of the world around me. So, honestly, I thought the author wanted to show off a lot of esoteric knowledge, vocabulary, etc. I have read Atonement by this author. It also was somewhat pretentious. Why do the critics love this author so much?
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book baffled me. It was boring, and I knew it was boring, but at the same time I continued to read without being overwhelmed by the boredom. Most of the narrator's thoughts were fairly mundane and pointless- albeit eloquent- but something about them, perhaps the novelty of following a person's thoughts that closely, kept me reading. The characters were certainly well-developed, which helped immensely. One aspect of the novel I found jarring was the constant insertion of analysis on the Iraq war. It seemed very out of place, and kept yanking me out of the story. I understand the importance of the topic, but the narrator seemed to think about it to the point of obsession, and it made me feel as if his thoughts on the subject were more authorial interjection than a part of the story. In the end, I'm not sure if I'd say that I enjoyed this one, but it definitely intrigued me enough to keep me until the end.
spankyIA More than 1 year ago
I love this man's writing- he manages to control the time dimension- he takes the random, wandering mind that changes over milliseconds and gives each thought voice, and then turns around and develops each character in intimate detail, and accomplishes both within a plot that happens over a 24 hr time span and peaks with equal power to any action, suspense novel ever written. I plan to read everything he has published.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A good read as the author examines aspects of a man going through events of a Saturday. McEwan manages to acquaint the reader with a professional, his wife, children, his career, his examining both his and his mother's aging and mortality, and the macrocosm of the world and war. War is not the solution unless you and yours are tortured. Henry Perowne's personal torturing events call for desperate actions.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was not my most favourite book. I almost threw it out, but then got slightly hooked into wondering what the hell it was all about and whether it was going to improve at all. I felt it was one of the most self indulgent and boring book, and the only thing of interest was the insight into brain surgery. Just goes to show that good authors can sometimes make bad mistakes.....
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is seldom that I do not finish a book. This book won awards, rave reviews, etc. however, I found it hard to read and follow. As a result, after the first 100 pages I decided it wasn't worth my time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Like Atonement, this novel is a well-crafted "literary" novel. By this I mean that those below who find McEwan to be "rambling" aren't really giving McEwan's the deep thought that it deserves. The novel touches on important themes such as the role of literature (reading, writing, story-telling) in society, modernism (how the 24/7 hour news cycle shapes our daily lives). Basically, everyone should read this novel if they want to read a thoughtful, insightful writer's observations of modern life (and the problems that come with it). Thank you McEwan - I loved the book! Also, amaaazing characters and an amazing family. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
When I first picked up this book I was really excited about reading it; however, now that I’ve finished the novel it turns out that I did not enjoy it. This book not only confused me, but it really didn’t grab my attention. The narrator of the book was often very dry and very boring and that caused the book to constantly drag. I will say that the characters of the book were well-developed, we personality which help out while I read the book. The confusion started when medical terms came about. The author used very big medical terms and descriptions that most readers did not understand. Along with that, the story often jumped back and forth between the characters and scenes. Overall, Saturday was not as good as a book as I thought it would be. 
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GracieO More than 1 year ago
The Neurosurgeon gives us way to much information about what he is thinking, wearing , eating, driving, etc. Nothing really happened in this story until the middle of the book and by then, I didn't care.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I started reading this book for one of my college courses and had the mindset, "o I'm not going to enjoy this book, I'll just make it through." But I ended up finding a character that makes living inside one's head interesting. I ended up really liking the book and would recommend it, but just say to come into reading it with an open mind.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not much after Atonement... Another routine novel pretending to address a current issue. Sad for such an important literary figure...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Overkill with character development.
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