Book Review: Saturday – Ian McEwan

Title: Saturday
Author: Ian McEwan
ISBN: 9781400076192
Pages: 304
Release Date: April 11, 2006
Publisher: Anchor
Genre: Literary Fiction
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4 out of 5

Summary:

Saturday follows the course of one day in neurosurgeon Henry Perowne’s life.  It begins with his early rise in the morning, only to witness a fiery plane crash at London’s Heathrow airport at his bedroom window.  This fiery experience is indicative of Henry’s eventful day, as he has an encounter, the consequences of which will change his life and that of his family’s forever.

Review:

Saturday is a novel that takes place in just one day, from the time Henry Perowne wakes up to when he goes to bed.  During that day, he undergoes all the mundanity of life, but also some shocking, unexpected twists that will change him forever.  Henry himself is a sane man in a world gone mad.  He tries to make sense of what he sees around him, the emotion, the negativity, the terrorism and finds himself lost.  Despite this confusion, Perowne is satisfied in his bourgeois life – a gifted surgeon, he is comforted by his privileged existence, one that he worked hard for.

McEwan’s writing is razor sharp and precise; he wields his pen much like Henry wields a scalpel.  Every word has its place and its own purpose; there are no stray phrases or errant thoughts.  Much of the novel is Henry’s inner monologue about the world he lives in, and while sometimes his thoughts are engaging, they often drag.  More than once, I found myself ready to find out what happens next in Henry’s day, rather than read pages of his thoughts on what has already occurred.  This is not a novel of action, but is a contemplative one.

A main theme running through Saturday is that of consequences.  All actions have their own consequences, whether observable or not, and Henry learns this in the most difficult way at the end of the book.  The entire novel has an ominous feel; from the explosive beginning with the plane crash, readers know the book is building towards something, and that it probably isn’t good.  It’s interesting to see how McEwan uses this dread and the shock of violence as a metaphor for the world’s experience at dealing with terrorism.

While Saturday was certainly an interesting novel, it wasn’t my favorite of McEwan’s.  I found my attention wandering more than once, and Henry and his family are too perfect in the overachieving department to really be believable.  That being said, it was an interesting, thoughtful novel about the effects of terrorism and violence on our society, and so is worth reading despite my issues.  I recommend this book to anyone who’s in the mood for contemplative literary fiction.

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Comments

  1. After two misses with McEwan (in the years before I started blogging) I simply gave up on him. I know everyone else in the world thinks he’s brilliant but I’m usually a bit bored and don’t like his characters.

  2. After two misses with McEwan (in the years before I started blogging) I simply gave up on him. I know everyone else in the world thinks he’s brilliant but I’m usually a bit bored and don’t like his characters.

  3. I’ve been a little leery of McEwan’s work since being let down by the ending of Atonement. I’ll have to think about this one.

  4. I’ve been a little leery of McEwan’s work since being let down by the ending of Atonement. I’ll have to think about this one.

  5. McEwan is a favorite author for me, and though I really hated Amsterdam, I have a few of his other books on my shelf, and this is one of them. You have made me curious about it and now I want to try it! Great review on this one! It sounds like something I would love!

  6. McEwan is a favorite author for me, and though I really hated Amsterdam, I have a few of his other books on my shelf, and this is one of them. You have made me curious about it and now I want to try it! Great review on this one! It sounds like something I would love!

  7. I love Ian McEwan books because of his precise, beautiful and dense writing. This is on my “list” but I probably won’t get to it right away. I need to be in a “careful” reading mood.

  8. I love Ian McEwan books because of his precise, beautiful and dense writing. This is on my “list” but I probably won’t get to it right away. I need to be in a “careful” reading mood.

  9. I have tried to read this book so many times, but it just doesn’t work for me… I really liked McEwan the first time I read him, but he doesn’t seem to work for me since.

  10. I have tried to read this book so many times, but it just doesn’t work for me… I really liked McEwan the first time I read him, but he doesn’t seem to work for me since.

  11. I read this about two years ago, encouraged by a hardcore McEwan fan who told me that this was a taut psychological thriller. I was disappointed. I’m not a fan of McEwan’s forensic writing style and to be quite honest, I found the climatic scene in the novel quite absurd. I gave McEwan another shot with On Chesil Beach (audiobook narrated by Ian McEwan himself) and again, I found his writing arid and overall, the story without any ability to engage me intellectually of emotionally. My literary pride is wounded somewhat that I don’t love him as much as so many other people for whom I have book respect for; but I think I just don’t have that McEwan gene that finds his writing compelling. That said, I do have Atonement here, and I’m willing to give him one more try!

  12. I read this about two years ago, encouraged by a hardcore McEwan fan who told me that this was a taut psychological thriller. I was disappointed. I’m not a fan of McEwan’s forensic writing style and to be quite honest, I found the climatic scene in the novel quite absurd. I gave McEwan another shot with On Chesil Beach (audiobook narrated by Ian McEwan himself) and again, I found his writing arid and overall, the story without any ability to engage me intellectually of emotionally. My literary pride is wounded somewhat that I don’t love him as much as so many other people for whom I have book respect for; but I think I just don’t have that McEwan gene that finds his writing compelling. That said, I do have Atonement here, and I’m willing to give him one more try!

  13. I have tried to read this book and my attention wandered too. So much so that although I have started it several times I have never finished it. McEwan is one of those authors I can recognise as a great writer, but I am rarely caught up in the story (which is what is most important to me). I like your comments on it being about consequences, I will certaily try and read it again with those thoughts in mind and see if it helps me to push through

  14. I have tried to read this book and my attention wandered too. So much so that although I have started it several times I have never finished it. McEwan is one of those authors I can recognise as a great writer, but I am rarely caught up in the story (which is what is most important to me). I like your comments on it being about consequences, I will certaily try and read it again with those thoughts in mind and see if it helps me to push through

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