From Publishers Weekly
In the predawn sky on a Saturday morning, London neurosurgeon Henry Perowne sees a plane with a wing afire streaking toward Heathrow. His first thought is terrorism--especially since this is the day of a public demonstration against the pending Iraq war. Eventually, danger to Perowne and his family will come from another source, but the plane, like the balloon in the first scene of Enduring Love
, turns out to be a harbinger of a world forever changed. Meanwhile, the reader follows Perowne through his day, mainly via an interior monologue. His cerebral peregrination records, in turn, the meticulous details of brain surgery, a car accident followed by a confrontation with a hoodlum, a far-from-routine squash game, a visit to Perowne's mother in a nursing home and a family reunion. It is during the latter event, at the end of the day, that the ominous pall that has hovered over the narrative explodes into violence, and Perowne's sense that the world has become "a commuity of anxiety" plays out in suspense, delusion, heroism and reconciliation. The tension throughout the novel between science (Perowne's surgery) and art (his daughter is a poet; his son a musician) culminates in a synthesis of the two, and a grave, hopeful, meaningful, transcendent ending. If this novel is not as complex a work as McEwan's bestselling Atonement
, it is nonetheless a wise and poignant portrait of the way we live now. (Mar. 22)
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As McEwan writers, “When anything can happen, everything matters.” Saturday
magnifies a pivotal moment in history and a day in a man’s life as secure foundations crack and uncertainty rushes in. While critics cited different overriding themes, Saturday
explores ideas of fate and purpose, life’s fragility, revelation, and terror at all levels of society. McEwan, an enduring talent in Britain combines “literary seriousness” with a “momentum more commonly associated with genre fiction.” The result is an intricate, captivating novel defined by a “serene tension” that erupts into a dark reality despite its hero’s optimism (New York Times Book Review
McEwan brilliantly builds many layers of reality from small details. Henry-a sympathetic, if conflicted, character-knows he can examine people’s brains, but not understand their minds. His ruminations on surgery, lovemaking, music, war (he’s pro-war), and literature (he’s clueless) rise to a crescendo as he slowly questions his own motives and actions. In dazzling, authoritative prose, McEwan depicts this growing anxiety with a calmness that is soon violated.
Despite its appeal on both sides of the Atlantic, a few reviewers thought McEwan’s intricate plotting and slow, dark suspense was too structured. The novel’s explicit messages deprive the reader of “feeling, rather than coolly registering, the author’s intention” (New York Times Book Review). Yet, in the end, most critics agree that Saturday is both a substantial work of literature by one of Britain’s greatest minds and a powerful piece of post-9/11 fiction.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.