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Saturday: A novel Hardcover – March 22, 2005
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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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From Bookmarks Magazine
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.
Top customer reviews
upstanding neurosurgeon's basic humanity
In just one day, so many thoughts and events occur, that most people never realize they exist. With a breakdown of Henry’s ideas, memories, ruminations, McEwan poses the question: Is it possible that so much goes on in our minds, our lives, that we don’t think about how and why? As the text moves along, the reader makes definitive distinctions between two categories of thoughts Henry possesses, which lead to similar emotions: some are happy, positive and some sad, negative. Might this be true for the reader, too?
Through the lens of Henry, it is clear, a person can alter his own experiences of time or his sense of contentment with his associations. Henry’s day flies by as he moves from thought to activity and back. He can feel young and blissful when thinking about his wife, their love, and how lucky he is to have her, for example. He’s happy thinking of his son and daughter, music, snow. The reader sees what Henry fails to notice, that he can slow his perceptions of time, feel lonely and grim when he allows himself to obsess about negative events in the news or his mother’s Alzheimer’s. When a traumatic event takes place later in the day, time stands still. The reader fully grasps the effect of perception on the human mind.
What a day! McEwan creates a character and a story in which parallels are drawn to anyone who picks up this book. It is a statement about how so much of our lives are about choices. We are all left pondering more deeply the broader implications of our own thoughts and actions.
This book was hard to get into. The plot didn't really pick up for me until about page 87 or so, when he has the confrontation. Before that, I was dragging to get through the book. I'm also not sure if I like the main character as he seems very proud of himself and seems to think he knows everything. There weren't really any characters that I truly enjoyed reading about.
I gave the book three stars simply because the writing is so great. The author is inside Perowne's head and does a great job of outlining the weird tangents that a person can get on in their thoughts after hearing a certain word or just experiencing a certain trigger. While this is a tough book to read because the action is not really fast and the character jumps topics a lot, the writing is really great because this a hard type of novel to write. The plot has points that are really interesting and that fly, but for the most part this was just tough to read.