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254 of 292 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A study of "the powerful currents...that alter fates."
In the middle of the night, Henry Perowne, a 48-year-old neurosurgeon, awakens for no apparent reason and sees what he thinks, at first, is a meteor, but the object brightens, moves faster, and blazes through the skies at low altitude--a plane on fire, approaching Heathrow. In intensely realized descriptions, Henry thinks about this dramatic event and reacts and shares...
Published on March 22, 2005 by Mary Whipple

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131 of 151 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Well written, smug, unbelievable
You'll have no problem reading Saturday. There's nothing difficult about it. Indeed, as usual with McEwan, you won't be able to remember one phrase, or even word, a week after reading it. Surely the best novelist in England should be leaving something memorable behind him?

And then there are the characters. It's not surprising all those politicians thought...
Published on February 26, 2006 by Ian Forth


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254 of 292 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A study of "the powerful currents...that alter fates.", March 22, 2005
This review is from: Saturday: A novel (Hardcover)
In the middle of the night, Henry Perowne, a 48-year-old neurosurgeon, awakens for no apparent reason and sees what he thinks, at first, is a meteor, but the object brightens, moves faster, and blazes through the skies at low altitude--a plane on fire, approaching Heathrow. In intensely realized descriptions, Henry thinks about this dramatic event and reacts and shares the most intimate aspects of his existence, drawing the reader into his life. Every action, thought, and question about life, fate, and destiny is articulated as Henry struggles to make sense of this one day in his life and see it in a philosophical context.

Happily married to Rosalind, a lawyer for a newspaper, Henry has two remarkably creative children--one a blues musician and the other a poet. Through their lives, he recognizes that his own preoccupation with science and reality has left him incomplete. He has come to believe that "there [is] more to life than merely saving lives," and he yearns to find a complete, "coherent world, everything fitting at last."

As the day progresses, Henry fixates on the plane accident, possible terrorism, the imminent war with Iraq, and a traffic accident resulting in an altercation with a thug. But throughout this "action," Henry is contemplating his relationships with the world at large, trying to understand his place within it. Having rejected organized religion, he finds some comfort in the conclusions of Darwin, who connects all life in a continuum in which he sees himself a part.

As he thinks of his own parents and children, he also observes contrasts in the world around him, people whose lives are different, not because of any inherent difference but simply because of chance--"the currents that alter fates." When the Perowne home is invaded during a family gathering at the end of the day, Henry faces a decisive moment in the battle between his emotions and his intellect. The climax is loaded with menace and executed with high drama, but the events themselves are less significant than Henry's reactions to them.

Intensely introspective and beautifully integrated, this is McEwan's most thoughtful--and least plot-based--novel to date, with every detail adding to the complex characterizations and themes--a wonderful meditation on individuals and culture, connection and disconnection, and the arbitrariness of fate. Mary Whipple

Atonement
On Chesil Beach
Enduring Love
Ian McEwan: The Essential Guide
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131 of 151 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Well written, smug, unbelievable, February 26, 2006
By 
Ian Forth (Melbourne, Vic Australia) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Saturday: A novel (Hardcover)
You'll have no problem reading Saturday. There's nothing difficult about it. Indeed, as usual with McEwan, you won't be able to remember one phrase, or even word, a week after reading it. Surely the best novelist in England should be leaving something memorable behind him?

And then there are the characters. It's not surprising all those politicians thought Saturday was the book of the year. The protagonist is living the life they all hanker after. He's living the life of McEwan himself, basically, with the exception of the brain surgery bits which have been clumsily grafted on to mask the autobiographical element, and also to invite eulogies pivoting around the surgeon's incision / the novelist's incision.

Now those characters. Lead: most gifted brain surgeon of his generation. Daughter: most gifted poet of her generation. Son: most gifted musician of his generation. Father-in-law: most gifted poet of his generation. Mother: most gifted swimmer in her county. Wife: a top lawyer (incredibly not the most gifted lawyer of her generation, as far as we know anyway). Does this sound like any family you know? Me neither. I appreciate he's drawing a picture of privilege, but he's also inviting us to admire and like these people, and they're all so horridly smug it's unbearable. I actually felt delighted when the edifice was shattered, and disappointed that calm was restored so effortlessly - can that be the desired effect?

And the details. Can you seriously imagine a guy coming up to 50 who's able, in the course of one day, to have sex, face down a mugging, play squash, drive around for a few hours, prepare a huge family meal, overpower armed intruders into his house (with the aid of his daughter who reads poetry to prevent being raped), sit down for the meal he prepared, go off to conduct brain surgery all night, come back and then, oh yes, where was I, I'm ready for a bit more sex now, it only being 5 o'clock in the morning and the police coming round at 10 o'clock and everything.

So it's readable. But is any of this likely? Is any of this likable? Is any of this helpful?
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127 of 150 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The challenge of the professional reductionist, March 22, 2005
This review is from: Saturday: A novel (Hardcover)
This day in the life of a moral, conscientious man serves as a metaphor for the quality of a man's life, how unexpected violence may disrupt and injure, but not destroy. London neurosurgeon Henry Perowne sets out on his Saturday with a full schedule and a brimming mind, much of his internal musing triggered by the events of 9/11, the incipient war with Iraq and a massive anti-war demonstration taking place that day to protest Bush's potential attack on Iraq: "Saturday's he's accustomed to being thoughtlessly content..."

Perowne carries on an inner dialog made more complex by current events, though always engaged in thoughts of his patients and family, perhaps recently with a sharper edge, a poignancy, a nod to the random destruction that has become part of the new world landscape. A minor accident triggers a chain of events, so unexpected that Perowne is blindsided by his own lack of foresight. This one day becomes a metaphor for what has so recently stunned the world and left it shaken. Like a country attacked on a bright New York day, Perowne, and by extension his family, are briefly assaulted, then left to deal with the repercussions of violence.

The well-trained, educated brain screams danger, but the acculturated man is still in shock, unable to adapt to quickly changing circumstances: "Questions of misinterpretations are not often resolved." Facing imminent danger to himself and to his family, Perowne cannot make his precise mind plan, his mental calculations serving instead as stumbling blocks for extricating the family from a volatile situation.

I find it fascinating that the author's protagonist is a neurosurgeon, for McEwan writes with the precision of a surgeon, his novel as brilliantly structured as Perowne's mind. In a world gone mad with terror and the quest for a semblance of its former identity, Perowne creates an island of objectivity, the thinking, civilized man recreating a sane world, albeit one forever altered by circumstances. The real test is in the aftermath of such an event, how one moves on the key to the quality of life desired, whether left helpless and raging or refusing to concede those small fragments of integrity that must be repaired, though imperfect, forever scarred with a hairline crack. Luan Gaines/ 2005.
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Saturday: compassionate critique of a flawed Superman., August 1, 2006
By 
M. Locher (New Haven, CT United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Saturday: A novel (Hardcover)
I noticed a trend in a number of other reader reviews (mostly lukewarm or negative responses) which struck me as so off-base that it kicked off my own impulse to review "Saturday."

The suggestion is that McEwan's novel suffers from a protagonist who is too pristine, too blessed with a fine family, too lacking flaws to be believable or interesting. Shocking, considering I had just finished describing "Saturday" to my wife as a meticulous (albeit very gentle) critique of its protagonist, Henry Perwone, flawed hero du jour.

McEwan, no stranger to writing about the upper-middle class, sees Henry as a decent man; a good man, even. But it's awfully clear that McEwan's creation, though warm and intelligent, troubles the author. He reveals his concern with great subtlety. Yes, Henry is a highly accomplished medical professional, respected and at the top of his game. He's blessed with a passionate and loving marriage, and his grown children are extraordinarily good-natured, unique, and talented. Henry's family house is magnificent. So is his automobile.

It's with irony, then, that author McEwan weaves a compassionate portrait of Henry as an afflicted man. His case is minor, sure, but that's the beauty of "Saturday:" between the well-manicured lines of McEwan's novel is an quiet indictment of middle-class complacency, isolationism, passivity. Though his distaste for literature (in particular, non-realistic works) is completely forgivable, it's related, perhaps, to an overall smallness of vision. It's that smallness, we're meant to gather, which comes smashing back to bite him one Saturday.

McEwan has fashioned a protagonist who regularly rejects a worldview founded on connectivity--Henry prefers the scope of his private sphere too much to wonder for too long about the ripples any individual sends to others. He's oddly lacking in imagination. "Saturday" seems to suppose, aloud, whether Henry is exceptional, or, on the contrary, if he's the very picture of the succesful family man of the modern age.

Though that answer is ours to determine, Henry's all-too-typical collection of middle-class imperfections meshes with the titular day's events in a tide of slow-rising dread. Drawing a complex character study into the unfolding events of a single day is a tricky-sounding task, but McEwan pulls it off smartly. "Saturday" is observed with enough detail that the narrative slows from time to time (particularly in the first third), but stick with it; there's a great sense of humanity in McEwan's prose. These characters are well-portrayed, and when the narrative builds harrowing momentum, you'll cringe for them.
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33 of 38 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful writing, glacial pace, November 26, 2005
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This review is from: Saturday: A novel (Hardcover)
This book suffers from the same affliction as ATONEMENT: beautiful, textured prose with no sense of how a story should be paced and told. I tried very hard to like this book, but the self-absorbed stream of conscious of the narrator repeatedly gets in the way of moving the plot along. I found myself thinking, over and over, "For God's sake, man, get on with it!" Wasting ten pages on a meaningless game of squash - and I used to be a tournament-level player - does nothing to advance the plot. Nor does his painfully long-winded description of making a fish stew (I can buy a Julia Child book or CD for something like this). McEwan is unable to keep from wrapping the story around the axle in paragraph after paragraph of boring detail, much of which seems designed to simply show off his writing skills, which are considerable. Finishing this book was a real chore. I do not recommend it, and I'm surprised that it was short-listed for the Booker Prize.
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43 of 52 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Unusually disappointing, January 3, 2006
By 
Jose Sotolongo (Accord, NY United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Saturday: A novel (Hardcover)
I have been reading Ian McEwan since his first book, "Cement Garden," was published thirty years ago or so. I have been a great fan of his, awaiting with bated breath his every new utterance. "Atonement", "Enduring Love," and "Amsterdam," his latest books preceding "Saturday," were even better than his previous works, even the mysterious and suspenseful ones, like "Black Dogs." It was a huge disappointment to me, therefore, when I first tried to get through "Saturday," and found that I could not maintain my interest. I put it down and left it for several months, and tried again after some friends at dinner discussed it and praised it. Alas, I got stuck at the same spot, when he meets the unsavory characters at the scene of a car accident.

It seems to me McEwan has stopped time in this book, and the pace is unbearable for me. His manipulation of the scene in which the neurosurgeon, completely unbelievably, is able to control a potentially dangerous individual by diagnosing him with a congenital disease at the scene of the accident, simply by observing his hand tremors, is simply not plausible. I would have accepted that plot contrivance if the pace had been more engaging, but in this context it was, again, the last straw, and I stopped reading it, for the second and last time.

If you've not read him before, start with "Atonement," an astonishingly well-written book with a well-constructed story line, engaging characters, and a page-turner pace.
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars This Perfect Day, April 20, 2007
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This review is from: Saturday (Paperback)
James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Andrei Bely, Mulk Raj Anand and Mollie Panter-Downes all wrote famous twentieth-century novels describing a day in the life of a single character, but it's hard to imagine what any of them would have done with so dull a protagonist as that of Ian McEwan's most recent novel. Dr. Henry Perowne, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition seems to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and has lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex him. He lives in a beautiful house on a Robert Adam-designed square in London; his son is an extraordinary blues guitarist; his daughter a gifted and prize-winning poet, following in the steps of his famous father-in-law her grandfather; and if all that weren't enough, his beautiful wife, a reporter, is so sexy he just can't wait to sleep with her again and again. Moreover, he is an accomplished athlete (a marathon runner and squash player) and, as one of the top neurosurgeons in London, a completely self-made man. Ian McEwan follows this most boringly blessed (and most self-satisifed) of men on a Saturday in 2003 as he muses (unimaginatively) about the likelihood of the US and the UK going to war with Iraq, plays squash, visits his mother in a nursing home and prepares dinner for his family. Naturally something really dramatic has to happen, but it takes nearly three-quarters of the novel for it to occur, and when it does it is absurdly melodramatic and unbelievable, and in any case, if you were expecting anything resembling a tragic ending for this most perfect of men and most perfect of families, you're a dreamer.

It's hard to believe this smug and dull novel is by the same author as ATONEMENT, much less of BLACK DOGS; you'll know what you're in for when you hear that Perowne's children are named Theo and Daisy, and that the famous poet of a father-in-law is named John Grammaticus (!). Usually even the weaker among McEwan's novels are rescued by their beautiful prose, but here he shows no interest in making the wonders of medicine transparent to his audience by eschewing the jargon of the field (as does, for example, Ethan Canin), and he indulges in extremely turgid technical language to describe Perowne's surgical work. It's a real botch of a novel, and very disappointing coming from such a talented writer as McEwan.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great, but..., October 29, 2006
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This review is from: Saturday (Hardcover)
I love McEwan's writing enough to forgive him for the few faults this novel almost conceals. At its best, the prose evokes Fitzgerald's effortless beauty. At worst, it feels showy, or show-offy: 18 pages to describe a squash match? No need. We GET it. Ian knows squash, Ian knows fine wine and food, Ian knows Neurosurgery, Ian knows Blues. The problem is that the novel Hangs too long, or too deeply on each of these subjects. Ok, so the book is only about one day in this guy's life, one 24 hours of his hyper-consciousness, and as a result it HAS to go deep. Still, I felt at times like McEwan was showing off, not just showing.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Complex, nuanced story told with true mastery of the writer's craft. I loved it!, November 22, 2006
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This review is from: Saturday (Paperback)
This 2005 Ian McEwan novel got me so hooked that I read it all in one fell swoop; I just couldn't put it down. And then I was sorry to have it end. Reading this author means stepping into the world of a true wordsmith, one who uses words so well that the reader experiences a worldview of countless nuances and subtleties blending seamlessly with an intriguing story.

The whole book takes place on one cold winter day in 2003, a few weeks before the Iraq invasion. Henry Perowne is a successful neurosurgeon with mixed feelings about the coming war. He loves his wife and grown children and lives a privileged life. He has planned on spending his Saturday playing a game of squash and preparing a special family dinner, and, indeed, he does these things. But an Ian McEwan story is never as simple as that. There is a tone of impending disaster right from the beginning and that tone escalates and includes a disturbing confrontation over a minor traffic accident. The writer brings this character's keen sense of observation to the reader, and I found myself smiling or shuddering or analyzing everything right along with him. The British use of words enhanced the experience and I occasionally had to translate a word or two into American English. The crafting of the book is exquisite. I give it my highest praise.

Along the way I learned more than I ever wanted to know about neurosurgery as some of the scenes take place right in the operating room. Along with the main character, I started to think about the brain, and not just about the usual stuff that is written about emotions. I learned about the complexity of that particular part of our bodies we never see, but yet is responsible for the essence of who we are. My eyes were opened about this in a whole new way. Bravo to the author of this.

The plot starts out slowly and then picks up momentum and the last quarter of the book is absolutely impossible to put down. Every character is exposed with his or her strengths and weaknesses and all the little nuances in between. And so is the impending war and the international events providing the setting for their experiences.

I give this book my highest recommendation. It's only 289 pages long. But its impact is sure to last a long time.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Self-indulgent & pretentious, May 9, 2006
By 
This review is from: Saturday (Paperback)
McEwan won the Booker prize for an earlier book. His new novel, SATURDAY, shows the trendy vacuity and self-indulgence we have come to associate with the Booker prize carnival. Here is surface smoothness and gloss, plus vibrations emanating from the trendy (and marketable) topic of terrorism. As we glide or plough through the novel, adapting to its uneven quality, it becomes evident that nothing in the novel connects to anything else. The distant fiery landing at the airport has descriptive details that don't matter, its cargo doesn't matter, the reason for the emergency landing doesn't matter, how long he waits to tell his wife about it doesn't matter, the length of the delay before it appears on the news doesn't matter, and this is my critical paradigm for the entire book. Nothing leads anywhere that's plausible and hardly any of the action-elements connect. The family is described, but it wouldn't matter if a different family with different members had been described. His reactions to the Tolstoy and Flaubert novels don't matter. The only connect-up is a laborious coincidence that has the neurosurgeon, first intimidated by Baxter in an auto scrape and later at home, operating and saving the life of Baxter at the end of the novel. Even more preposterous is the neurosurgeon making a subtle, off-the-cuff diagnosis of Baxter's organic brain disease on the street, in the aftermath of the auto accident, while being menaced and threatened by Baxter and his thug bodyguards. It's very self-indulgent & Booker-prizey and ultimately unfocused. Flaubert once claimed it was possible to write an entire novel consisting only of style, with content superfluous. This would be my summary of SATURDAY, and an overgenerous summary at that. Distilled summary: the book imposes on the reader and is a time-waster. But I have to blame myself, too --- the jacket warns us that McEwan is a Booker prize winner. If somebody warns me a bear trap awaits and I step into it anyway, I have only myself to blame. The same applies to you.

I've read the praise-laden reviews below. These reviewers have the mentality of Booker prize judges -- willfully equating McEwan's disconnections with profound modern chaos, etc. Peter Sellers did comic audio sketches of such reviewers and to good effect. Watch your step on this book.
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Saturday
Saturday by Ian McEwan (Paperback - April 11, 2006)
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