Saturday

Saturday

by Ian McEwan

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Overview

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: 329,313
Product dimensions: 5.18(w) x 7.98(h) x 0.67(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 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 160 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.
Othemts on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
MacEwan's novel follows a seemingly ordinary day in the life of a London neurosurgeon as he goes about his tasks and ruminates analytically on his life and work. It's interesting how seemingly major things (like a car crash) are detailed with less intensity than the the seemingly mundane (a game of squash). Towards the end of the novel things come together too neatly with a dramatic twist that I think undercuts the more interesting stream-of-conciousness aspects of the early part of the novel. Still an interesting read with a good focus on developing character and internal monologue.Favorite Passages:"What a stroke of luck, that the woman he loves is also his wife."
KevinJoseph on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
For a one-day snapshot in the life of neurosurgeon Henry Perowne, "Saturday" covers a lot of ground. From an unexpectedly early awakening, to a fiercely competitive game of squash, to a run-in with demented street thugs, to a family get-together gone horribly awry, to a late-night surgical procedure, Mcewan transforms the ordinary into the transcendent in a way that reminds me of Updike's best work. Terrorism, evolutionary theory, genetic predeterminism, art, socio-economic strata, parenting, and mortality all take their turns on stage, with Mcewan's brilliant prose teasing universal truths from this utterly realistic microcosm he's created. Seen through the eyes of a perfectly-drawn character whose profession is known for its God complexes, Perowne's realization that his Saturday is coming to a close and that he, like any mere mortal, had better prepare for the coming Sunday in his life, resonates perfectly. For me, genre fiction is where much of today's most interesting writing can be found, yet this novel serves as proof that certain literary fiction can both entertain and enlighten. -Kevin Joseph, author of "The Champion Maker"
probably on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The central character is a neurosurgeon. His wife is a lawyer - they're rich in London. Son a guitarist; daughter a poet. He has a fender bender in the morning, goes and plays a serious game of squash, visits his mother who is suffering from Alzheimer's, buys stuff to cook, and then has his house broken into by the fenderbender people. Daughter is forced to strip naked in front of everyone, recites poetry; he fights with the assailant (who has some kind of incipient disease, recognized immediately by the surgeon in the morning), gives him a bad concussion and then has to operate on him. He saves his life, but doesn't want to press charges. Barbara says, yes it was contrived; I said contrived and it doesn't matter if you like the writing. I left out it's in the shadow of the then pending Iraq war and a plane flew over that the surgeon saw out his window while gazing out over sleeping London.
elizabrown on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One day of a likeable neurosurgeon. His ponderings about his kids, one a successful jazz musician and the other a published poet (aint that fiction!) and his legal-eagle wife were endearing and lovely to read. His passion and satisfaction for his work was enviable, and the unlikely event that rocked the day made for fabulous reading with a sensational suspenseful conclusion... make sure you have enough time to read the last 50 pages without disturbance. Although I enjoyed this book, I found myself tempted to skip a paragraph here and there during some passages not associated with the day's action.
rosencrantz79 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
How have I lived this long on the earth without having read Ian McEwan? Well, my McEwan-less days are over! I was absolutely astounded by this post-9/11 British novel. McEwan's prose is eloquent and precise as he tells the story of one particular Saturday in neurosurgeon Henry Perowne's life. At 304 pages, Saturday is full of passages that go on for pages to describe a single action, yet this novel still manages to be a page-turner. After reading this book, I added Atonement and A Child in Time to my Christmas wishlist.
milti on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My introduction to this author, and now I definitely want to explore more of his work. The beauty lies in the details. He leaves nothing out, but it doesn't get tedious at all like I feared it would.
flydodofly on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What a day, what a life, and - how frail it all is. McEwan's brilliant writing makes you sing inside - happy and thankful that you are a conscious human, reading away.
bchandler27 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the story of a (memorable) day in the life of Henry Perowne, a neurosurgeon, who would acknowledge has everything he desires: a beautiful lawyer wife, Rosalind, a soon to be published poet daughter, Daisy, a talented blues guitarist son, Theo, an enormous house in London, and a mercedes. The family is converging on this particular Saturday evening to reconcile Daisy with her grandfather, John Grammaticus. Henry is in control and playing the angles even in moments of extreme distress because well I suppose that's how brain surgeons function.Beyond the core plot details the story conveys the ethos that led up to the war in Iraq. The opening pages describe Henry watching a flaming jet approaching Heathrow airport and describes some of the ensuing anxiety and even the perverse regret when its announced that the jet experienced an engine failure. The book centered on the theme of happiness. I found myself hoping that Henry would experience more self loathing or even regret at his good fortune, but no he is compassionate and successful and well magnanimous. He's a model person: he has a challenging and rewarding job that ultimately satisfies him. He has a family of self confident and unique people with divergent interests. He can get mad at his squash opponent in the heat of the game and moments later release himself of the anger.The book is a little slow to get started (like a sleepy Saturday) sharply builds to a climax and then resolves to a thought provoking finish.
pgkenn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoy most of McEwan's books. They read like those Dutch Master still-lifes: beautiful, but corrupt. Saturday though was a real disappointment. In a departure from his exploration of attractive, but ultimately rotten characters, McEwan tries to define a hero for our times, a model of a man. But every detail is banal and indulgent. The pathetic pleasure Perowne takes in the hum of a Mercedes says it all. I advise McEwan to stick to the portraits he renders so exquisitely: the self-absorbed individual, haplessly complicit in his own demise. True heroism and redemption seem within reach for Briony in Atonement, but not for our man with the smart townhouse and squash club in London. In the end he - and the novel - are simply complacent.
nocto on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago

Best book I've read this year, and I don't feel like I've been reading a load of rubbish either. I wasn't at all sure to start with, what with brain surgery and the book being set in a single day, but it grew on me immensely. Off to find more McEwan to read.

kaionvin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Saturday more consistently put me to sleep than any other book that didn't have the words "Calculus" or "Philosophy" on the cover. Forced to backtrack every day my brain conked out, I read the beginning part where the protagonist Henry wakes up five or six times.This is not as damning as it sounds because in the time us mere mortals hit the alarm clock or breathe or wiggle our toes or consider our oatmeal or the shadow of a dream or clean underwear or whether we remembered to water the plants yesterday or what to remember to grab on the way out... Well (as Ian McEwan portrays it) whilst we do that; super-awesome, toweringly-intelligent, dead-sexy neurosurgeons are having three pages of thoughts about their fit muscles or architecture or the aging of their wives or the Iraq War or something (I mentioned the "zzz"-s, right?).So I totally started skipping around the rest of the book. And while there was more about how this awesome extended to his perfect family, and some minor melodrama resembling the Easy-Bake version of a conflict... well, nothing caught my attention.Maybe McEwan's descriptive style isn't for me? (But I got through Lord of the Rings!) Maybe stream-of-consciousness isn't my speed? (And liked Mrs. Dalloway.) Mayhaps I've got an touch of unconscious class resentment? (And The Age of Innocence.) Too deep? Too soon? Too male?Tangelos if I know. If we all did, there wouldn't be insomnia, would there?At any rate, I've put aside Saturday in the back of one of my book cupboards, waiting to see if it ages into its flavor. I'll probably have another go one of those nights when I've had way too much coffee.
fig2 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This startling novel examines one very bad day in the life of a smart, happy surgeon. Henry's life looks very different from morning to night in this remarkable character study. McEwan is a genius!
LaurieRKing on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Some of McEwan's books bog down under me, but this is brilliant.
praymont on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I liked Ian McEwan's Saturday partly because of its focus on the mind-body relation. The main character, Dr. Perowne, is a materialist -- there's nothing more to a mind than a brain.Perowne regards three persons through this reductionist lens:1. Perowne's alcoholic father-in-law, a complicated poet whose foibles grow predictably from the effects of alcohol on the brain;2. Perowne's mother, who suffers from dementia; the sections about her are the most profound in the book, focusing on the pathos and tragic affront when a good and caring person is deleted by brute, neural wiring malfunctions; and3. Baxter, the intelligent thug; the issue here is the conflict between, on the one hand, our natural moral indignation at the heinous crimes of a free person and, on the other hand, the picture of the criminal as an unfree victim of his own gnarled neural wiring. (Shades here of philosopher Wifrid Sellars' contrast between the Manifest Image [our common, everyday sense of ourselves and others as free and responsible persons:] and the Scientific Image [in which those persons dissolve into amoral atom-swarms:].)The main weakness of the novel is its plot, which seems implausible and jury-rigged in places, as if McEwan had notebooks full of good passages and riffs that he was itching to publish and just threw together any old narrative in which to embed them. Still, there's some great writing in Saturday.
buttsy1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It took me some time to appreciate this novel.Initially, I found it extremely slow-moving, and was irritated by the extraordinarily precise description of the squash match.However, after a while, it dawned on me just what Ian McEwan was doing. Rather than being a novel that tells a story, this is one that tells a day, from the point of view of one character. Once my head was around that, I was able to make more sense of it. Also, being a similar age to the main character meant that I was able to develop something of an identity with him - I too have young adult children with whom I either feel incredibly close or disturbingly distant.There was an unsettling tension, centred on the question of when Baxter would come back into the story. He does, eventually, and with significant impact, but I won¿t say much more, except that the ending isn¿t necessarily what one might expect or want to happen ¿ but this is a narrative of a day, and nothing more.I don¿t watch television programs that involve medical procedures, and now I know that I don¿t like reading graphic descriptions of them either.So, the squash and the operation are negatives. But the idea is really good, and I felt a real sense of identification with the main character even though I don¿t have a poet (famous or otherwise) as father-in-law, and neither am I employed within the medical industry.As far as McEwan books go, I still prefer Atonement, and still have On Chesil Beach on my ¿to read¿ list.
emri on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of my alltime favorites. Reading this book, you become the main character. Because of the details, you really "live" this book. It is both very "everyday ordinary" and very thrilling and scary. (sorry, my english is better when I read than when I write!).But most of all, his thoughts, his fears, his contemplations where my very own, expressed with an exactness that made me read out loud phrases on almost every page.
sonyau on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of my favorite books. The whole of a man's life and all his major relationships and all his hopes and fears, as well as the hopes and fears of the the Western world are captured in a twenty-four hour period. Neurology is the core of this novel, how the brain can call forth memory and sensation in times of crisis, and how it can fail as easily from disease, age, and injury. How precious the ability to think, how incredibly precious our ability to love.
Gary10 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One day in the life of a surgeon in London. Brings together the fear and paranoia of the post 9/11 world with descriptions of everyday life. Well written and engaging.
cmeatto on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Should be a text book given out at the Scarsdale train station. Captures the meaning and meaningless nature of successful upper middle class lives. As we all know, a writer of extraordinary talent now at the top of his game.