Saturday

Saturday

by Ian McEwan

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Overview

Saturday by Ian McEwan

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781400076192
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/11/2006
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 257,613
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.70(d)

About 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.

Hometown:

Oxford, England

Date of Birth:

June 21, 1948

Place of Birth:

Aldershot, England

Education:

B.A., University of Sussex, 1970; M.A., University of East Anglia, 1971

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.


Reading Group Guide

NATIONAL BESTSELLER

“Dazzling. . . . Powerful. . . . McEwan has shown how we . . . live today.” —The New York Times

The introduction, discussion questions, suggestions for further reading, and author biography that follow are intended to enhance your group’s reading of Saturday, Ian McEwan’s highly acclaimed novel of urban life in the aftermath of 9/11.

1. Henry Perowne has a loving, intelligent wife, two gifted, handsome children, a large, elegant house in central London, and a job that deeply satisfies him. He appears to be, in all ways, a successful and enviable individual. He is also thoughtful, ethical, and intelligent. Do these facts make him an agreeable protagonist? What are his flaws or his failings?

2. Why is the parable of Schrödinger’s cat [p. 18] so fitting an end to the first section of the novel? Why does Henry reject it as a thought experiment? How does the image of the cat in the box address the idea of disasters that occur outside the range of our own consciousness?

3. McEwan takes his epigraph from Saul Bellow’s novel Herzog, which was published in 1964. The list describes the conditions surrounding “what it means to be a man” in Herzog’s America. How closely do these conditions still apply in the lives of Perowne and Baxter? Does McEwan, like Bellow, wish to remind his readers that “you yourself are a child of this mass and a brother to all the rest. Or else an ingrate, dilettante, idiot”? Does Saturday depend upon the moral engagement of the reader?

4. On the story’s opening page we are introduced to the main character as “Henry Perowne, a neurosurgeon” [p. 1]. How does Henry’s professional training shape the way he thinks about the world around him, and about himself? In his work, Henry experiences a kind of self-erasure: “Even his awareness of his own existence has vanished. He’s been delivered into a pure present. . . . In retrospect, though never at the time, it feels like profound happiness” [p. 266]. How does his love of work shape his life?

5. Saturday is unique in that it limits its time frame to a single day in recent history—February 15, 2003—a day that most readers will remember because of the massive anti-war demonstrations that took place. What is the effect of this straitened approach to time, and its attendant view of history-in-the-making? How, in light of world events since then, does it feel to look back to that day, before the war in Iraq began?

6. Clearly Baxter is a violent and deeply unstable man; is he also likeable in certain ways? How does Perowne’s view of Baxter from a neurological perspective change the reader’s relationship to him?

7. Just after September 11, 2001, Ian McEwan wrote an essay for the Guardian newspaper about the effect of watching those terrible, world-changing events on television. He wrote, “We remember what we have seen, and we daydream helplessly. Lately, most of us have inhabited the space between the terrible actuality and these daydreams. Waking before dawn, going about our business during the day, we fantasize ourselves into the events. What if it was me?”* In Saturday, Henry awakens before dawn to the sight of a flaming aircraft and is unsettled by the threat this vision presents to his city, his family, and his way of life. In what ways does Saturday communicate this sense of living with an ongoing threat of a large-scale disaster? How do the characters in the novel cope with this somewhat abstracted sense of danger?
*Read the Guardian essay: www.guardian.co.uk/wtccrash/story/0,1300,552408,00.html

8. During his visit to his mother, Henry acknowledges a belated appreciation of her way of thinking, which as a younger man he had thought trivial and unintelligent: “He had no business as a young man being condescending towards her. . . . Unlike in Daisy’s novels, moments of precise reckoning are rare in real life” [p. 159]. How does Henry communicate with his mother, and what does his attitude toward her tell us about him? In what ways does Saturday embrace the conventions of fiction, such as “moments of precise reckoning,” and how does it deny them? Does it work in the chaotic, inconclusive style of real life, or does it in fact give us moments of resolution and reckoning, forgiveness and satisfying closure?

9. In the first few pages of McEwan’s The Child in Time, a child is kidnapped during a visit to the supermarket and never seen again. In Enduring Love, the protagonist’s life changes irrevocably when he sees a man fall to his death from a hot-air balloon. At the outset of Saturday, the opening disaster appears to be coming from airborne terrorists attacking the city; the real danger comes from a revenge-seeking man who has been damaged by his own unlucky genetic fate. What effect, if any, does this unexpected shift from a public terror to a private one have on the story?

10. British critics have expressed a sense of disbelief that Henry would not recognize the lines of Matthew Arnold’s poem “Dover Beach,”* one of the most famous poems in English literature. Yet Henry has pointed out repeatedly that he is impatient when reading literature. Is it ironic that Henry—a character, after all, in a literary work—is so resistant to the appeal of fiction and poetry?
*Read the poem online at: http://rpo.library.utoronto.ca/poem/89.html

11. Why might McEwan have chosen “Dover Beach” as the poem that saves Daisy by appealing so powerfully to Baxter [pp. 228–30]? What does it mean to him? What emotions does the poem’s speaker express?

12. McEwan’s choice to locate the narrative perspective within a single point of view (Henry’s) focuses the reader on the subject of human consciousness. Stuck in traffic just before his collision with Baxter, Henry thinks, “A second can be a long time in introspection” [p. 80]. How does the description of Henry’s introspection, which makes up a large part of the novel, affect its pace? If you have read other novels (like those of Virginia Woolf, Henry James, or James Joyce) that delve as closely as Saturday into the representation of human consciousness, how does McEwan’s approach differ?

13. Perowne takes a wry view of both the American President and the British Prime Minister. What is wrong, in Henry’s opinion, with both of these men? What motivates them? What does Henry and Rosalind’s brief meeting with Tony Blair expose about men in power?

14. Operating on Baxter, Perowne thinks, “Just like the digital codes of replicating life held within DNA, the brain’s fundamental secret will be laid open one day. But even when it has, the wonder will remain, that mere wet stuff can make this bright inward cinema of thought, of sight and sound and touch bound into a vivid illusion of an instantaneous present, with a self, another brightly wrought illusion, hovering like a ghost at its centre. Could it ever be explained, how matter becomes conscious? . . . He knows it will come, the secret will be revealed–over decades, as long as the scientists and the institutions remain in place, the explanations will refine themselves into an irrefutable truth about consciousness” [pp. 262—63]. Do you agree with Henry’s faith in science? In terms of the problems presented in Saturday, what can science solve, and what can it not?

15. In Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, a wealthy society woman learns at a party she is hosting that a shell-shocked veteran of World War I has killed himself by jumping from a window. She feels guilty and ashamed that she hasn’t shared his suffering and fears that her privileged life has cut her off from real empathy. Does Henry’s decision to operate on Baxter reflect a similar sense of guilt or responsibility? Why does Henry not share Rosalind’s desire for revenge?

16. McEwan is interested in the contrast between the human capacity for empathy, which is strengthened by the act of reading fiction, and our capacity for violence against each other: “We are capable of acts of extraordinary destruction. I think it’s inherent. I think one of the great tasks of art is really to explore that. . . . I personally think the novel, above all forms in literature, is able to investigate human nature and try and understand those two sides, all those many, many sides of human nature.”* How does Saturday engage in this juxtaposition of violence with empathy? Which of the characters in the novel are most attuned to the experience of others? If you have read Atonement, are the two novels similar or different in their handling of the question of imaginative empathy?
*Read the complete Frontline interview:
www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/faith/interviews/mcewan.html

17. Saturday features several bravura passages of descriptive writing, such as the confrontation between Henry and Baxter [pp. 81–100], the squash game [pp. 104–118], and the surgical operation on Baxter’s brain [pp. 253–66]. What is the effect of these passages, and what do they tell us about McEwan’s style? What sets McEwan apart from other contemporary writers of literary fiction?

18. Henry doesn’t join the peace march because to do so would express a more uncomplicated view of events than he actually holds. He looks, with hindsight, at the ideologies of the previous century: “Now we think we do see, how do things stand? After the ruinous experiments of the lately deceased century, after so much vile behaviour, so many deaths, a queasy agnosticism has settled around these matters of justice and redistributed wealth. No more big ideas. The world must improve, if at all, by tiny steps. People mostly take an existential view–having to sweep the streets for a living looks like simple bad luck. It’s not a visionary age. The streets need to be clean. Let the unlucky enlist” [p. 74]. How would you characterize his moral point of view?

19. For Henry, both the fiery plane and the peace march invoke thoughts of terrorism: “London, his small part of it, lies wide open, impossible to defend, waiting for its bomb, like a hundred other cities. Rush hour will be a convenient time. . . . The authorities agree an attack’s inevitable” [p. 286]. One reviewer observed that in the four years that have passed since 9/11, “Security . . . has become the great obsession. . . . The prevailing public mood has come to resemble closely that of an Ian McEwan novel. Constant menace, punctuated with nightmarish atrocities; the insult of the world’s continuing normality: these are things we all understand very well” [Theo Tait, The Times Literary Supplement (London), February 9, 2005]. What is it like to read this novel in the wake not only of 9/11 but also of the July 2005 attacks on London? In what ways does it reflect the changes in your own life and consciousness?

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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Saturday 3.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 109 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.
emmakendon on LibraryThing 8 hours ago
I loved the beginning of this - "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". That line completely set me up for all the detail that goes on in Perowne's head and his meticulous analysis of it all. Apart from his healthy libido and silly car his constant diagnosing and slotting behaviour into neurological terms reminds me of the adults' conversations round the dinner table when I was growing up, or my father's descriptions these days of people I knew in my childhood, who are now ageing. The reference to Jack Bruce made me laugh, as he was bladdered and stoned at about 11 in the morning the last time I saw him - admittedly about 1990 (I was at school with his sons during the 80s). Doctor-father would certainly not have approved!Someone wrote on a books thread about a feeling that the floor was going to give way when s/he reads a McEwan novel, and in a way that is very much something I enjoy in his writing, and in Graham Swift's. The vulnerability of the human soul, stuck in the human body as it deteriorates along with its brain, stands well for me alongside the Perowne material comforts, and I have a great sympathy with Henry for his understanding of that and consequently of his mixture of compassion for and fear of Baxter.As with many books I've read recently, my familiarity of the locations are helpful, that rising to second floor level on the Westway (though I never knew it was called that) and the way the Telecom tower changes from scruffy to serene with the darkening of night, the little restaurants that never get a mention in reviews (such as Ragam, the best Indian restaurant I have ever been to, though McEwan perhaps has never been there).I decided to read this because of a Pairing Books thread: one contributor had picked out Saturday and Swift's Light of Day, both set in one day. I decided to read the Swift in one day, but in fact the narrative takes in quite a long timespan, so the effect was completely lost. I'm glad I decided to read Saturday more slowly, as I found it quite luxurious to have the time to contemplate all those passing seconds and moods and thoughts we all have in a day.And one of those 'things' happened, reading this, as those 'things' often do. I had just read the first bit with Henry watching the Russian plane before he knew what it was, wondering whether he should call the emergency services and talking himself out of it, when I looked up out of my train window and saw black smoke billowing out of a flat. I couldn't possibly have given a location to the fire services for one thing, but I found my mind going through all the same machinations as Henry's and settling on: someone must have called already - they already know.I too enjoyed the reference to The Child in Time - although I didn't enjoy the book because there, and in Enduring Love, the story really did get in the way of the writing for me. I didn't feel the same about this one, partly because I was smilingly ready to suspend my disbelief in a fit of generosity to McEwan because a) I was prepared, and b) his Henry is such a sympathetic character whose company I enjoyed.The climax scene is a bit hard to swallow, but McEwan does excuse himself beforehand saying in a world of possibilities anything is possible, but my final burning question on finishing the book is: why Dover Beach for Baxter?Oh, and I really enjoyed the bit with Blair at Tate Modern! As for someone's comments about Theo not paying his dues, it reminds me of something Humphrey Lyttleton said to jazz trumpeter Guy Barker at the BBC Jazz Awards some years back, about never having played at Wisbech.
cliffagogo on LibraryThing 8 hours ago
Since discovering McEwan¿s writing in 1990, I¿ve eagerly picked up every book he¿s written, without disappointment. His latest, set against the backdrop of the London Anti-War demonstration of 2003, is staggeringly addictive. An untypical day in the life of neurosurgeon Henry Perowne is expertly handled ¿ feelings of dread and foreboding run through the text like a thick vein about to be severed. Like previous novels, his words are comfortable and familiar, like bumping into an old (if slightly eccentric and unnerving) friend.
sylviaxxx on LibraryThing 8 hours ago
This book revolves around a single, pivotal day (Saturday Feb 15 2003)in the life of the main character, Henry Perowne. But through this short time span the author builds a detailed picture of the man, his family, his life and work and through him we see the wider world in all its complexity and confusion and on occasions its violence. Gripping stuff, dazzling ending.
michaeldwebb on LibraryThing 8 hours ago
Perfectly readable, but a little dull. Don't know why I always read McEwan - the first sentence could apply to all his books!
prof_brazen_guff on LibraryThing 8 hours ago
A compelling read, and a mature, multi-faceted exploration of the moral arguments concerning the proposed invasion of Iraq. Throughout the novel, characters are placed in positions where they are aggressors, and indeed where they are victims, demonstrating that there are no cut and dried decisions to be made in such difficult historical times.
booksbooks11 on LibraryThing 8 hours ago
I bought this while on holiday in England, just because it was on special. It turned out to be a really engaging read. Yet another "it all takes place in one day" story, but it unfolds really nicely and leads you up a few tantalising dead ends.
Abi78 on LibraryThing 8 hours ago
Some of the writing in this was breathtakingly beautiful and so it sits on my shelves with five bookmarks in it marking the best bits! However, I felt the overall story was disappointing and I couldn't identify with the characters. They seemed somehow lacking in depth or dimension. Besides, he's done the 'manipulative psycho infiltrates decent family' thing before in his much better novel 'Enduring Love'. So, full marks for the writing, and strong but not top marks for everything else!
Figgles on LibraryThing 8 hours ago
A book much bigger than it's length, extraordinary, I think I will be thinking about it for a long time. Post modern or modern? Extraordinary - to say anything more feels like shallowness. Generous.
ksieyzc_2007 on LibraryThing 8 hours ago
I know that this book has received mixed reviews in the written media however I rather liked it. This may be down to geography, knowing the places he was talking about, being able to envisage them on a saturday morning with the protest underway. Location aside parts of it *did* drag at times. The squash playing episode being one. Also the ending was terribly contrived and really one would have expected slightly better from an author with the reputation of McEwan. However as a non-threatening, non-challenging, easy read it wasn't too bad.
Safia on LibraryThing 8 hours ago
The story is nothing much to go by, it is just the introspective thinkings of a Neuro-surgeon in London who is far too sheltered in his own posh little world, a cocoon of sorts in which he lives in and doesn't like to venture out.McEwan is a fantastic author though, that is what makes this book readble. Not the story itself, but the actual writing, the voice and style in which McEwan has mastered.I couldn't put it down.
innominate on LibraryThing 5 days ago
At first I was a bit disappointed that a number of the reviews here and on Amazon rated Saturday so poorly. I thought it was magnificent.After a little thought, I think I know why this book has polarised opinion so much. It is written by, about, and for the middle-aged male. I am one of those. (It might appeal to women as well, but I can only speak for myself.)If you have ever felt jealous of (but at the same time admiring) the achievements of your children and their generation, while at the same time resenting (but taking pride in) the careers of your parents or parents-in-law and their generation, you will find something in Ian McEwan's book that speaks to you. If you feel youthful whilst fearing the onset of senility, if you have a Saturday routine that has come to define your week, if you are between 42 and 52, you will understand Henry Perowne.Even if you are not part of the obvious audience for this book, put aside your concerns about the obviously contrived elements (all the action taking place on one day or the power of Dover Beach to turn the tide of an armed burglary) and enjoy the beautifully constructed prose and characterisation. (And, if you are younger than 42, anticipate your future.)
jennyo on LibraryThing 6 days ago
Ian McEwan's written another excellent book. This book is the story of one day in Dr. Henry Perowne's life. Henry's a neurosurgeon, and because the story is seen through his eyes and we're party to his thoughts, it can sometimes seem cold and analytical. But, that's Henry (and, I suspect, McEwan). Henry's personality is balanced by the presence of his children, Daisy, a poet, and Theo, a blues musician. He appreciates their art, but doesn't really feel or understand it in quite the same way they are able to. It didn't surprise me that Henry's favorite composer was Bach. Bach's music, like this book, is very precise, almost mathematical, but still beautiful. And thought-provoking.The book also examines violence on both a macro and micro level. On this particular Saturday, there's a huge anti-war demonstration (it's set just before the US and UK invaded Iraq). Henry's not quite come to terms with how he feels about this war; yet he thinks about it all day long, and finally has a verbal battle with Daisy that still doesn't really clarify his thoughts. Henry's also almost mugged, and though he escapes that particular incident safely, it leads to an even more frightening situation.It took me several days to read the first 30 or 40 pages of this book. I couldn't relate to Henry very well. But once I had a couple of hours to sit down and really get into his head, I found the book compelling to read. And I blew through the last 150 pages or so last night. Couldn't really put it down until I'd finished it. So, if you think it's starting out slowly, give it a chance. It pays off.Here are some of the quotes that I wrote down in my journal. McEwan makes me think. ...the pursuit of Utopia ends up licensing every form of excess, all ruthless means of its realisation. If everyone is sure to end up happy for ever, what crime can it be to slaughter a million or two now? (On the reading his daughter assigns to him): They had the virture, at least, of representing a recognisable physical reality, which could not be said for the so-called magical realists she opted to study in her final year. What were these authors of reputation doing--grown men and women of the twentieth century--granting supernatural powers to their characters? He never made it all the way through a single one of those irksome confections. (I feel this way about poetry too): Novels and movies, being restlessly modern, propel you forwards or backwards through time, through days, years or even generations. But to do its noticing and judging, poetry balances itself on the pinprick of the moment. Slowing down, stopping yourself completely, to read and understand a poem is like trying to acquire an old-fashioned skill like dry-stone walling or trout tickling. He suspects he's becoming a dupe, the willing, febrile consumer of news fodder, opinion speculation and of all the crumbs the authorities let fall. He's a docile citizen, watching Leviathan grow stronger while he creeps under its shadow for protection.
kenicholls on LibraryThing 6 days ago
remind me not to read mcewan books in the future. this was just as terrible as his last and probably as terrible as the one before.
betsyjulia More than 1 year ago
This eighth book in my current Ian McEwan binge is the one I have now purchased just after reading a digital copy. (All the others have been library copies.) The reason being that not only is this story of one day in the life of a neurosurgeon so brilliant and moving that it reduced me to a sweaty puddle, but reading a single line of McEwan's narrative lights a fire in my writer brain. He reminds me about full-sensory life and how to express it—color, heat/cold, smell, etc.—evoking the words of his thirteen-year-old Atonement protagonist, Briony Tallis, who claims that she can describe anything; McEwan can, in such original language that it’s mesmerizing. Also, in my ongoing study of his narrative—and I’m definitely reading as a student—with this book I began to see the minute parts: how he uses literal movement (journeys, panoramic views, even travel from room to room of a house) to convey what would otherwise be stagnant inner thoughts and dialogue. I’d been wondering why what drives me to abandon books (excessive inner dialogue) has the opposite effect on me with McEwan’s work, and I think the secret is movement. He has figured out how to create so much of it that what would otherwise feel inert vibrates on the ride. And the rhythm of the literal movement in journey, punctuated by background or informative narrative is impeccable; it never drags; it's as if a metronome is marking the edges between the different uses of narratives and he never goes beyond a reader's organic attention span, and slowly, fearlessly he builds the book, escalating from narrative to heart-pounding pure action.
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. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago