Saturday

( 93 )

Overview

"Saturday, February 15, 2003. Henry Perowne is a contented man, a successful neurosurgeon, the devoted husband of Rosalind and the proud father of two grown-up children, one a promising poet, the other a talented blues musician. Unusually, he wakes before dawn, drawn to the window of his bedroom and filled with a growing unease. What troubles him as he looks out at the night sky is the state of the world, the impending war against Iraq, a gathering pessimism since 9/11 and a fear that his city, its openness and diversity, and his happy family ...
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Overview

"Saturday, February 15, 2003. Henry Perowne is a contented man, a successful neurosurgeon, the devoted husband of Rosalind and the proud father of two grown-up children, one a promising poet, the other a talented blues musician. Unusually, he wakes before dawn, drawn to the window of his bedroom and filled with a growing unease. What troubles him as he looks out at the night sky is the state of the world, the impending war against Iraq, a gathering pessimism since 9/11 and a fear that his city, its openness and diversity, and his happy family life are under threat." "Later, Perowne makes his way to his weekly squash game through London streets filled with hundreds of thousands of anti-war protestors. A minor car accident brings him into a confrontation with Baxter, a fidgety, aggressive young man, on the edge of violence. To Perowne's professional eye, there appears to be something profoundly wrong with him." Towards the end of a day rich in incident, a Saturday filled with thoughts of war and poetry, of music, mortality and love, Baxter appears at the Perowne home during a family reunion, with extraordinary consequences.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
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.
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
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
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
"Saturday revives W.H. Auden’s definition of great art as ‘clear thinking about mixed feelings.’”
The Globe and Mail

“[McEwan’s] writing has been almost critically unimpeachable. . . . Of all the writers currently at work, McEwan stands with very few others as one who can . . . inspire . . . complexly formed feelings of deep admiration.”
Books in Canada

“McEwan brilliantly conveys the process whereby a man’s competitive instincts go overboard and he becomes desperate to win a squash game or and argument.”
Toronto Star

“Skilfully blends the joys of food, music and sport with the uncertainty of an age undergoing disturbing transition.”
Canadian Press

"This is a gripping portrait of a man who suspects he’s heading downhill. And there are transcendent moments, like the brief, utterly heartbreaking sequence describing the encounter with his mother, as devastating as it is subtle. Fascinating.”
–Now (Toronto)

"Saturday is thoughtful, finely written, rich in detail and analysis, a portrait of a living mind.
The Gazette (Montreal)

“[McEwan] is a towering figure in the world of letters. . . . One of the smartest authors at work today. ”
Edmonton Journal

“This season’s most discussed novel. . . . McEwan again and again proves his virtuosity. . . . In McEwan’s hands . . . wars and politicians and terrorists mingle with private satisfactions . . . McEwan appropriates the subject of personal joy, brings it back into serious literature, and makes it, for the moment at least, his private literary property.”
National Post

“Mr. McEwan has not only produced one of the most powerful pieces of post-9/11 fiction yet published, but has 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

"In Saturday he remains at the top of his game — assured, accomplished and ambitious... [Saturday] offers something transcendent, impossible to dissect."
—Lewis Jones, Telegraph

"operating at the height of his formidable powers...Artistically, morally and politically, he excels"
—Ruth Scurr, Times

"Where the literary careers of some of his contemporaries now look like gaudy wreckage, he has triumphantly developed into a writer of outstanding subtlety and substance. ..Written with superb exactness, complex, suspenseful, reflective and humane, this novel about an expert on the human brain by an expert on the human mind reinforces his status as the supreme novelist of his generation."
—Peter Kemp, Sunday Times

"It's the good writing and the truthful and convincing way of rendering consciousness that makes Ian McEwan's Saturday so engrossing, keeping me awake like a mystery thriller."
—Colm Toibin chose Saturday as one his books in A Little Night Reading, in The Sunday Times

"Refreshing and engrossing, Saturday has a pleasing intimacy... McEwan's superb novel amply demonstrates how good fiction, by dramatising unweildy and fraught ideas in a deeply personal narrative, can fashion the world into gobbets sometimes more digestible than factual reportage"
—James Urquhart, Independent

"His gift of observation, wonderfully precise, now comes thick and fast. There is nothing in this novel that feels forced. The author's mature attention illuminates equally everything it falls on....this [is a] profound and urgent novel."
—Tim Adams, Observer

"In Saturday he is at his best — thoughtful, eloquent, yet restrained. The novel has all the technical assurance of its predecessors, and suggests as well as a newly political sensibility and a seductive, Joycean attention to the textures of normality."
—Henry Hitchings, FT

"Saturday is a brilliant novel about post 9/11 Britain, about the fragility of middle-class liberal values and assumptions, and the escalating vulnerability of our small, democratic island. It is McEwan writing on absolute top form."
Daily Mail

"An exemplary novel, engrossing and sustained. It is undoubtedly McEwan's best."
—Anita Brookner, Spectator

Praise for Atonement:
“Atonement is a deliriously great read, but more than that it is a great book.”
—Zsuszi Gartner, The Globe and Mail

“A book that shocks one into remembering just how high one’s literary standards should be… A tour-de-force by one of England’s best novelists.”
—Noah Richler, National Post

“A beautiful and majestic fictional panorama.”
The New Yorker

“Atonement is a tremendous achievement, a rich demonstration of McEwan’s gifts as a storyteller.”
The Vancouver Sun

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781400076192
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/11/2006
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 258,920
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.63 (d)

Meet the Author

Ian McEwan

Ian McEwan is the author of nine novels, including Amsterdam, for which he won the Booker Prize in 1998, and of Atonement, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction, and the WHSmith Literary Award.

Biography

One of the most distinguished novelists of his generation, Ian McEwan was born in England and spent much of his childhood traveling with his father, an army officer stationed in the Far East, Germany, and North Africa. He graduated from Sussex University in 1970 with a degree in English Literature and received his MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia.

McEwan burst upon the literary scene in the mid-1970s with two short story collections that highlighted with equal clarity his early predilection for disturbing, somewhat shocking subject matter and his dazzling prose style. Similarly, his 1978 debut novel, The Cement Garden, attracted as much attention for its unsettling storyline as for its stylistic brilliance. But even though his early work was saturated with deviant sex, violence, and death (so much so that he earned the nickname "Ian MacAbre"), he was never dismissed as a mere purveyor of cheap thrills. In fact, two of his most provocative works (The Comfort of Strangers and Enduring Love) were shortlisted for major U.K. awards.

As he has matured, McEwan has moved away from disquieting themes like incest, sadism, and psychotic obsession to explore more introspective human dramas. In an interview with The New Republic he described his literary evolution in this way:

"One passes the usual milestones in life: You have children, you find that whether you like it or not, you have a huge investment in the human project somehow succeeding. You become maybe a little more tolerant as you get older. Pessimism begins to feel something like a badge that you perhaps do not wear so easily. There is something delicious and reckless about the pessimism of being 21. And when you get older you feel maybe a little more delicate and hope that things will flourish. You don't want to take a stick to it."
Among many literary honors, McEwan has been awarded the Somerset Maugham Award for First Love, Last Rites (1976) and the Whitbread Prize for The Child in Time (1987). Nominated three times for the Booker Prize, he finally won in 1998 for Amsterdam. He has also received the WH Smith Literary Award and National Book Critics' Circle Fiction Award for Atonement (2001) and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Saturday (2005).

Good To Know

While developing the Harry Perowne, the neurosurgeon in Saturday, McEwan actually spent a year observing a neurosurgeon at work, which included time spent in the operating theater.

Although he is known principally for his novels, McEwan has also brought his vision to the screen as writer of the films The Ploughman's Lunch (1983) and Soursweet (1988).

Hollywood loves McEwan. Film adaptions of his novels include The Cement Garden, The Comfort of Strangers, The Innocent, Enduring Love, and Atonement.

McEwan is no stranger to controversy. In 1999, his first wife kidnapped their 13-year-old son.The child was returned and McEwan awarded sole custody. His ex-wife was fined for "defamation" of McEwan's name.

In 2002, Ian McEwan discovered that he had a brother born from an affair between McEwan's parents that occurred before their marriage and given up for adoption during WWII. Since their relationship has come to light, McEwan and his brother have met frequently and forged a friendship.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Ian Russell McEwan
    2. Hometown:
      Oxford, England
    1. Date of Birth:
      June 21, 1948
    2. Place of Birth:
      Aldershot, England
    1. Education:
      B.A., University of Sussex, 1970; M.A., University of East Anglia, 1971
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

One

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.

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Foreword

1. Saturday’s epigraph comes from Nobel Prize winner Saul Bellow, whose novel Herzog features an academic facing the shortcomings of his life. The novel was published in 1964; how might the history of the early Sixties have influenced Bellow’s perspective? Forty years later, how does Ian McEwan’s protagonist embody current events?

2. At the end of Saturday’s first paragraph, as Henry wakes too early, McEwan writes, “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.” To what else does Henry awaken as the novel progresses? In the book and in the world, who remains asleep (and unaware of their slumber)?

3. When Henry hears about the cargo plane’s safe landing, McEwan observes, “Schrödinger’s cat was alive after all.” How does Schrödinger’s thought-experiment, allowing two outcomes to co-exist during a period of uncertainty, apply to Henry’s daily life? How does it express the nature of human thought during times of anxiety?

4. Was the collision between Henry’s car and Baxter’s an accident? What visual cues (the type of car Henry associates with criminals, the “scarecrow” clothes that make him look like something other than a doctor) stoke the fire? What class conflicts are projected as the men argue? What determines who has more power in that situation?

5. Discuss the irony of the novel’s title. Henry intended to spend the day relaxing; does the modern world allow for any true respitefrom worry?

6. In your opinion, what accounts for the bliss between Henry and his wife? When he met her, did her vulnerability (through illness) feed their attraction, or was it merely a means for them to find one another? What accounts for Henry’s uneasy relationship with his father-in-law?

7. In researching Saturday, Ian McEwan spent months observing brain surgery. What parallels exist between a writer’s craft and a surgeon’s? What is the effect of McEwan’s decision to cast Henry in the specialty of neurosurgery (as opposed to thoracic or orthopedic surgery, for example)? How does Henry’s ease with medical terminology, but discomfort with the vocabulary of literature, influence your reading experience?

8. Jay Strauss moved to the U.K. in part because of his enthusiasm for socialized medicine. How would you describe the healthcare system presented in the novel?

9. Do you think Jay personifies most or few Americans? Is he more competitive than Henry?

10. As Henry watches his mother’s dementia worsen, he labels the physiological reasons for her decline. Does his familiarity with science ease or aggravate the sadness of losing her?

11. One of Henry’s last errands in the novel is to listen to attend a performance by Theo’s band. What does blues music, along with its American flavor, mean to Theo? Does Henry experience this art differently from the way he hears Daisy’s work?

12. Why was Baxter’s invasion of Henry’s house essential to this novel? In what way can this scene be explored as a metaphor for politics, war, even global economics? Why was it also necessary for Henry’s security system to be proven ineffective that night?

13. Using an anthology or website, read Matthew Arnold’s nineteenth-century masterwork "Dover Beach" in its entirety. What caused it to resonate with Baxter’s memories? Can you think of any contemporary poems in free verse that would have served Daisy’s purpose so well?

14. What saves Henry’s family from Baxter and his cohorts: Poetry? Pregnancy? Bravery? Intelligence? Luck? Divine intervention? Baxter’s illness? How would you have reacted in a similar situation?

15. As Henry returns to the hospital that night, he realizes this is where he feels most comfortable – even more so than when he’s in the world of alleged leisure. Earlier in the novel, McEwan describes how orderly Henry’s mother was; Henry wishes he had just once invited her to the operating theater. Is this sense of order and belonging innate to Henry’s profession, or is it something Henry has ascribed to it? In what locale do you personally feel you’re at the top of your game? Is this the same locale that puts you at ease?

16. Why is Henry willing to perform surgery on Baxter? What keeps Henry from craving the revenge Rosalind anticipated? Would you be able to drop the charges, as Henry hopes to do? How do you respond to McEwan’s questions: "Is this forgiveness? . . . Or is [Henry] the one seeking forgiveness?"

17. Can Henry’s surgery on Baxter be called revenge? Is his probing of Baxter’s brain a violation? Or, is Henry’s magnanimous act a victory of enlightened liberalism over Baxter’s primal power politics?

18. During Henry’s reunion with Daisy, they waver between words of affection and a rapid-fire ideological debate about Iraq. How would such a debate have unfolded in your household?

19. Four generations are presented in Saturday, including Daisy’s child. What does each generation bestow, or hope to bestow, upon the next? What spurred such an exceptional level of accomplishment among the members of the Perowne family?

20. Discuss the element of storytelling itself in Saturday. Do the stories disseminated within this novel – by the broadcasters, the protesters, the lawless, the keepers of family legacy – all describe the same reality? Who or what has the power to influence what we believe? What literary devices did Ian McEwan use to evoke realism in this novel?

21. Examining the works of Ian McEwan as a continuum, how does Saturday enrich the portrait of life he has been crafting throughout his career?

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Reading Group Guide

Introduction to the Reading Group Guide from the Publisher

Ian McEwan's fiction never fails to make us think a little differently-about humanity, and storytelling, and the beliefs that comprise our myth and memory. In Saturday, he has created a storyline that brings to bear the full weight these facets in the contemporary world.

With intense precision, McEwan draws us into the life of London neurosurgeon Henry Perowne. Taking place over a single day, Saturday follows Henry as he copes with everyday quandaries: insomnia, aging, the quest for a moment of leisure in the midst of so many obligations. But this particular day ripples with unexpected fears. Before the sun is up, he sees fire glowing from an airplane as it lumbers above the Thames. Newscasters deliver conflicting accounts of the incident. Later, as Henry drives to a game of squash, anti-war protestors clog the streets. And then his car scrapes against another, a fender-bender that should have had only minor consequences. Yet, as much as Henry tries to enjoy an ordinary day, this is not meant to be a day of minor consequences. With every tender encounter-stolen moments with his wife, tea with his fragile mother, marvelous discussions with his grown children-he is looking over his shoulder. As he should be. For this is the day his fears will become realized, and he will have to choose the best means of defense.

This guide is designed to enhance your reading of Saturday. We hope the following questions and topics will enrich your experience of this provocative novel. For more about this book, including an excerpt, go to www.Saturday-book.com. For more information on the author, visit www.IanMcEwan.com. To explore other great titles for reading groups, visit us at www.NanATalese.com.

Discussion Questions from the Publisher

1. Saturday's epigraph comes from Nobel Prize winner Saul Bellow, whose novel Herzog features an academic facing the shortcomings of his life. The novel was published in 1964; how might the history of the early Sixties have influenced Bellow's perspective? Forty years later, how does Ian McEwan's protagonist embody current events?

2. At the end of the Saturday's first paragraph, as Henry wakes too early, McEwan writes, "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." To what else does Henry awaken as the novel progresses? In the book and in the world, who remains asleep (and unaware of their slumber)?

3. When Henry hears about the cargo plane's safe landing, McEwan observes, "Schrödinger's cat was alive after all." How does Schrödinger's thought-experiment, allowing two outcomes to co-exist during a period of uncertainty, apply to Henry's daily life? How does it express the nature of human thought during times of anxiety?

4. Was the collision between Henry's car and Baxter's an accident? What visual cues (the type of car Henry associates with criminals, the "scarecrow" clothes that make him look like something other than a doctor) stoke the fire? What class conflicts are projected as the men argue? What determines who has more power in that situation?

5. Discuss the irony of the novel's title. Henry intended to spend the day relaxing; does the modern world allow for any true respite from worry?

6. In your opinion, what accounts for the bliss between Henry and his wife? When he met her, did her vulnerability (through illness) feed their attraction, or was it merely a means for them to find one another? What accounts for Henry's uneasy relationship with his father-in-law?

7. In researching Saturday, Ian McEwan spent months observing brain surgery. What parallels exist between a writer's craft and a surgeon's? What is the effect of McEwan's decision to cast Henry in the specialty of neurosurgery (as opposed to thoracic or orthopedic surgery, for example)? How does Henry's ease with medical terminology, but discomfort with the vocabulary of literature, influence your reading experience?

8. Jay Strauss moved to the U.K. in part because of his enthusiasm for socialized medicine. How would you describe the healthcare system presented in the novel?

9. Do you think Jay personifies most or few Americans? Is he more competitive than Henry?

10. As Henry watches his mother's dementia worsen, he labels the physiological reasons for her decline. Does his familiarity with science ease or aggravate the sadness of losing her?

11. One of Henry's last errands in the novel is to listen to attend a performance by Theo's band. What does blues music, along with its American flavor, mean to Theo? Does Henry experience this art differently from the way he hears Daisy's work?

12. Why was Baxter's invasion of Henry's house essential to this novel? In what way can this scene be explored as a metaphor for politics, war, even global economics? Why was it also necessary for Henry's security system to be proven ineffective that night?

13. Using an anthology or website, read Matthew Arnold's nineteenth-century masterwork "Dover Beach" in its entirety. What caused it to resonate with Baxter's memories? Can you think of any contemporary poems in free verse that would have served Daisy's purpose so well?

14. What saves Henry's family from Baxter and his cohorts: Poetry? Pregnancy? Bravery? Intelligence? Luck? Divine intervention? Baxter's illness? How would you have reacted in a similar situation?

15. As Henry returns to the hospital that night, he realizes this is where he feels most comfortable-even more so than when he's in the world of alleged leisure. Earlier in the novel, McEwan describes how orderly Henry's mother was; Henry wishes he had just once invited her to the operating theater. Is this sense of order and belonging innate to Henry's profession, or is it something Henry has ascribed to it? In what locale do you personally feel you're at the top of your game? Is this the same locale that puts you at ease?

16. Why is Henry willing to perform surgery on Baxter? What keeps Henry from craving the revenge Rosalind anticipated? Would you be able to drop the charges, as Henry hopes to do? How do you respond to McEwan's questions: "Is this forgiveness? . . . Or is [Henry] the one seeking forgiveness?"

17. Can Henry's surgery on Baxter be called revenge? Is his probing of Baxter's brain a violation? Or, is Henry's magnanimous act a victory of enlightened liberalism over Baxter's primal power politics?

18. During Henry's reunion with Daisy, they waver between words of affection and a rapid-fire ideological debate about Iraq. How would such a debate have unfolded in your household?

19. Four generations are presented in Saturday, including Daisy's child. What does each generation bestow, or hope to bestow, upon the next? What spurred such an exceptional level of accomplishment among the members of the Perowne family?

20. Discuss the element of storytelling itself in Saturday. Do the stories disseminated within this novel-by the broadcasters, the protesters, the lawless, the keepers of family legacy-all describe the same reality? Who or what has the power to influence what we believe? What literary devices did Ian McEwan use to evoke realism in this novel?

21. Examining the works of Ian McEwan as a continuum, how does Saturday enrich the portrait of life he has been crafting throughout his career?

About the Author

Ian McEwan was born in 1948 in Aldershot, England, and now lives in London. He studied at the University of Sussex, where he received a BA degree in English Literature in 1970. While completing his MA degree in English Literature at the University of East Anglia, he took a creative writing course taught by the novelists Malcolm Bradbury and Angus Wilson.

McEwan's works have earned him worldwide critical acclaim. He has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize for Fiction three times, winning the award for Amsterdam in 1998. His bestselling novel Atonementreceived the WH Smith Literary Award (2002), National Book Critics' Circle Fiction Award (2003), Los Angeles Times Prize for Fiction (2003), and the Santiago Prize for the European Novel (2004). He also won the Somerset Maugham Award in 1976 for his first collection of short stories First Love, Last Rites; the Whitbread Novel Award (1987) and Prix Fémina Etranger (1993) for The Child in Time; and Germany's Shakespeare Prize in 1999.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3
( 93 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(14)

4 Star

(30)

3 Star

(14)

2 Star

(21)

1 Star

(14)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 93 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2008

    McEwan Shines to No Surprise

    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.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 7, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Pretentious

    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?

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 13, 2006

    Disapointing

    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.

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 9, 2010

    Too many words and too rambling

    The rambling thoughts the main character runs thru on every page becomes mind numbing and I couldn't wait to just page thru the book to be finished. The plot was lost in all the word filled pages, so that I kept losing what was supposed to be happening at any particular time. It was just too "word-y". I was very disappointed in this book.

    3 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2008

    Still puzzled about this one.

    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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2007

    I'm well read and hate this novel

    I'm going to dismiss outright any charges that a bad review of this novel = someone who needs to get their kicks reading either chick lit or book versions of currently playing movie hits. This is easily one of the most boring, pretentious, slow moving, overly staring at your belly button novels I have ever attempted. I'm astounded at the good reviews. I never give up on books I've started but cannot tell you how tempted I am to do so. If it weren't for a good night out with the Book Club discussing this one there is no way I would waste a single moment more reading it.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 15, 2011

    highly recommended

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 10, 2010

    Worth the Read!

    I wanted to keep reading. Beautifully written.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 15, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Info dump with impossible pacing

    As stated by some reviewers, I started this book, but was unable to finish it. The first time I stopped was when Henry was attacked by Baxter and got away because he diagnosed the big man's health problem. Not believable. I picked it up again and started from that point, read through the squash match, and up to Harry's going to the fish market. Could not force myself to go on. Although I knew what I didn't like about the book, I felt like it was a failing within me. The critics liked it. My book club liked it. Were the problems I saw a lack of sophistication in me as a reader?

    Then, I read some of the reviewers online. Imagine how happy I was to see that others agreed with me. First, the pacing is intolerable. For every action, instead of a reaction, the author gives us paragraphs of introspection. Most of it is back story, things the author needs to know about his character in order to depict him as real, but the reader does not need all of these details. Yet even with all of these details, Henry seems to be no more than two-dimensional. There seems to be no passion in the man, as if he's all thought, but no emotion. Even his attitude toward his family is distant and analytical.

    Second, a good deal of the novel is an info dump. McEwan seems to have included everything he learned about brain surgery, medicine in general, and the medical system in Britain. Then there's fish soup, music, poetry, politics, al Qaeda, etc.

    I am sorry that these things spoiled my enjoyment of this my first novel by McEwan. I'd hoped to enjoy it, especially since so many others seemed to have done so and McEwan's use of language is almost enough to drag one along. However, I was bored, by the characters, the interminable thought processes, the plot, and too much information that did not move the story forward. Perhaps this particular novel would have worked better as novella or short story.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 30, 2008

    A Day in the Life...

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 8, 2006

    DULL...and no, I don't just relish pop fiction

    Couldn't get through it, although I tried. Hate doing anything halfway, but this book was a waste of 4 hours (over 3 weeks) that I will never get back. Long, drawn out grandiose text under the guise of intellectual fiction.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 7, 2006

    too drawn out

    I was excited to read this book but it turned out to be somewhat disappointing. It is very drawn out. The main character just thinks too much about things that are not all that exciting. There is also a lot of medical descriptions that I didn't understand as I am not a doctor. Overall not nearly as good as I thought it would be.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 14, 2006

    Surprisingly Boring

    This book sounded interesting to me, but I was disappointed when I actually read it. I suppose I expected things to be drawn out a little bit -- I mean, they would have to be to fill 289 pages with one day. But this book was too descriptive. I found my mind drifting off and when I got back to the book I realized that I had read several pages without even paying attention to what I was reading. And I don't think I missed much.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 24, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Mostly boring unless you are a doctor

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2013

    Oh whatever

    Meh.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 10, 2013

    Worth the time to read

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2013

    Not much after Atonement... Another routine novel pretending to

    Not much after Atonement... Another routine novel pretending to address a current issue. Sad for such an important literary figure...

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2012

    Torture

    Overkill with character development.

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  • Posted August 24, 2011

    Rambling

    I bought this book because of good reviews but I couldn't make it past the half way mark. When i realized midway through that I still had no idea what the book was about or where it was going I decided to call it quits.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2008

    worth your time

    I decided to read this book because it was on the '1001 books to read before you die' list, otherwise, a book about a single day in a man's life would not have interested me. However, I am glad that I read it. To me it shows how a single event can affect one's life and the lives of those he loves. I think it also shows how one's perceptions of things can change because of one event. McEwen is very descriptive, but, after all, it is a book about 1 single day in a man's life. I think it was definitely worth my time.

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