Read Saturday by Ian McEwan Online


Henry Perowne, 48, ist ein zufriedener Mann: erfolgreich als Neurochirurg, glücklich verheiratet, zwei begabte Kinder. Das einzige, was ihn leicht beunruhigt, ist der Zustand der Welt. Es ist Samstag, und er freut sich auf sein Squashspiel. Doch an diesem speziellen Samstag, dem 15. Februar 2003, ist nicht nur die größte Friedensdemonstration aller Zeiten in London. PerownHenry Perowne, 48, ist ein zufriedener Mann: erfolgreich als Neurochirurg, glücklich verheiratet, zwei begabte Kinder. Das einzige, was ihn leicht beunruhigt, ist der Zustand der Welt. Es ist Samstag, und er freut sich auf sein Squashspiel. Doch an diesem speziellen Samstag, dem 15. Februar 2003, ist nicht nur die größte Friedensdemonstration aller Zeiten in London. Perowne hat unversehens eine Begegnung, die ihm jeden Frieden raubt......

Title : Saturday
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9783257236279
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 386 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Saturday Reviews

  • Shovelmonkey1
    2018-11-18 14:12

    Hello everybody,I'm Henry Perowne and welcome to a day in my life... a Saturday to be precise. I'm a good natured sort of chap, if I were famous I'd probably be saddled with the tag of "thinking women's crumpet", but personally I take myself much to seriously to acknowledge that kind of thing. I'm a successful neurosurgeon who enjoys long, descriptive and adjective laden games of squash with my erudite and debonair colleagues. Today, for once in my incredibly lucky and wealthy life, I had a spot of bad luck and pranged my top of the range Merc. This led to an encounter which can, at best, be described as unpleasant. The thugs in the red BMW gave me a bit of a pasting which left me with a cracking haematoma over my sternum. However, my extensive medical knowledge allowed me to diagnose one of my attackers with a genetically inherited degenerative disease on the spot. This allowed me to escape, quick-smart, while they brooded over their own mortality.Later, after welcoming home my improbably talented and successful 16 year old Blues Musician son and my improbably talented and successful published poet daughter there was another small altercation. This time however the ebb and flow of violent modern day life breached the walls of this englishman's pricey Georgian Castle and things took a turn for the worse. Needless to say, my calculating surgeons mind and spirited, courageous family pulled together to best the simian-like thugs. Ironically it then fell to me to save said thug with an emergency neurosurgical procedure. Life's funny that way. I wrapped up the whole day the way it began; by making love to my improbably talented and successful wife and then having a little bit of a wistful ponder about my own mortality while considering it in perspective against a backdrop of modern foreign policy.

  • Lobstergirl
    2018-11-08 08:17

    Godawful."Saturday" was ponderous, labored, rhetorically thick and therefore perhaps to my mind pretentious, or do I mean pompous? It was like a big bloated beer gut, but a beer gut bloated - indeed, rendered distended, turgid, and tumescent - by the finest chardonnays, Gewurztraminers, and Sauvignon Blancs, sipped (quaffed?) while listening to Bach Partitas. It was bereft of conciseness, brevity, midgetude, terseness, laconism, abbreviation, and pith, its rather meaningless, hollow sentences curled around each other like vines choking a tree trunk, maybe a turkey oak. Paragraphs wended, labyrinthinely, toward a ridiculous and pat conclusion. Even when things happened, they were narrated along with the protagonist's meandering thoughts - and by thoughts, I mean those electrical impulses traveling from synapse to synapse between the neurons and glial cells in the nodes of the brain - as he moved through that last day of the week, also known as Saturday. This is how I would describe the book if I were writing in the style of, say, Ian McEwan.

  • Jonathan Terrington
    2018-11-08 06:19

    Jonathan sits before his reliable laptop, gathering his thoughts on how to begin a review of Ian McEwan's Saturday. He has already made up his mind as to how he shall write this review, a mediocre attempt at emulating Mr McEwan's third-person, present-tense style, will suffice. Yet he struggles with the concept of how best to begin the review. Shall he mention the plot, the themes or the beautiful writing? He knows at this point that he will refer to why he talks as an omniscient narrator for this review yet he lacks words and ideas to allow him to begin. His fingers hover over the keyboard, waiting for inspiration in order to begin a review different from others previously attempted.It comes to him now, he will open with a tale of how he came to be reading Saturday. He smiles wryly, the smile sliding to the very corners of his mouth. He certainly had never planned to read the novel. He had not set a reservation for the novel nor had he picked up from the shelf Saturday with the intention of reading it. He had believed the plain covered book to be a version of Ted Hughes' Birthday Letters, compulsory reading for his literature course. It seems to him now so ironic that he could have grabbed Saturday without realising that it was not a poetry collection, although it talks enough about that subject. Jonathan remembers back as to how he decided, upon realising his mistake, to read the novel. He had always intended to read some of Ian McEwan's work, Atonement being a particular novel he had considered, and the fact that the book was on the 1001 books-to-read-before-you-die list (now 1200+ books) convinced him he should actually read it.And so he had read the book and he had found it entertaining. The prose, he considers, had been particularly beautiful in its simplicity. Though there had been far too many medical terms dished out by the author as unconstrained information. "Here", McEwan had said, "have 'neurologist', 'aneurysm', 'dopamine' and 'biopsy' to keep you company, I don't care whether you understand or care about such terms." Jonathan certainly did understand those terms, yet he wonders whether the way they were flung about would detract other thoughtful readers. Then there was also the matter as to whether other readers would care enough about a novel set on one single day. Would readers want to know about one man's solitary day left separated from the context of a single lifetime? Would other readers care enough about the prose and the entertaining aspects of the novel - would they care about neurosurgeon Henry Perowne and his family, his squash game, his home invasion?Then, Jonathan questions, would they notice the themes of the novel? The ideas about how languages connect people. The suggestion that poetry could shape the lives about others and as an afterthought the connection between language and music through poetry. Would they see an idea about how our past deeds may come back to haunt us and how it is therefore important to question and challenge what we are doing in the moment? And would they see the idea of how a single day may be both everything and nothing in an individual's lifetime?Jonathan stares at his laptop and then begins to write. He writes until he has completed his review. He writes until his thoughts are spread out before him like blood pouring from a wound. He looks then at what he has written and asks himself one more question. Have I informed everyone enough about what I think about this novel - that I like it and yet do not consider it a masterpiece - in order to make others consider at least reading this? He pauses for a moment, then he lets out a sigh. He has written a decent review he considers, let potential readers make the decision as to whether they will read this literary text. He scans his work once more and then directs his cursor to the single 'save' button.

  • Paul Bryant
    2018-11-12 07:53

    *******Note : SPOILERS ALL OVER THE PLACE!! This review is for people who have read Saturday or people who will never read Saturday!********Reading Saturday is like running a weird obstacle race. At first it’s all manicured lawns and rhododendrons, and then it’s hideous piles of donkey droppings, and that’s how it goes – daffodils, donkey droppings, vistas of beauty, donkey droppings. And I’m not sure that was the intended effect. What a weird novel – here we have one of the stupidest plot devices for many years, followed immediately by one of the soapiest; and we also have an excruciatingly badly written cardboard villain; we have some fantastically overwritten passages which could make you lose your lunch if you’re sensitive to pretension; and yet, I liked it. I thought it couldn’t have tried more to do something which is worth doing, which is, to pick up the chaotic bundles of stuff left around by the journalists* and try to connect them together, and in the middle of the madness of the early 21st century, our madness, to make some kind of sense of some of the lives that can be lived in its midst.THE TWO RIDICULOUS PLOT DEVICES1) Okay, there’s a home invasion, like in Clockwork Orange or Death Wish or Funny Games. McEwan’s villain is called Baxter and he’s the standard twitching psycho. He has Huntingdon’s Chorea, the thing that killed Woody Guthrie. He’s got SYMBOL stamped all over his cardboard simian features. He represents THE LOWER ORDERS who in turn represent ANARCHY AND VIOLENCE. The beautiful upper middle class Perowne family represent ORDER, KNOWLEDGE and THE ARTS. So Baxter has ordered the pretty 23 year old daughter to disrobe. But then he notices a book on the coffee table. What’s that? It’s a poetry book I wrote, she says. So the psycho villain then asks her to read something out of it. She then quotes Dover Beach from memory and he has an epiphany, he howls “Oh that’s so beautiful!”, all thoughts of rape flee from his mind. Now reallya) Either Ian McEwan thinks that could actually happen in which case he’s very silly, orb) He thinks US READERS would think that could really happen, in which case he thinks WE’RE really silly2) Then, the father and the son overwhelm the intruder and hurl him down the antique stairs, so he receives a brain injury. In true medical soap tradition (British readers will be thinking of HOLBY CITY here), the father who hurled becomes the doctor who will save; yes, he dashes to the operating room to perform the delicate operation only he could do to save this wretch’s life. How morally superior can you possibly get? Well, this second slice of soapy pie was finessed pretty well in the end by our author, because, as he explains, “By saving his life in the operating theatre, Henry also committed Baxter to his torture” (from his terrible degenerative disease). That may be so, but it don't make this situation any less sudsy.SOME THINGS I REALLY LIKEDReaders have been repulsed by McEwan’s fulsome descriptions of the totally perfect Perowne family, the lovely lawyer wife, the lovely poet daughter, the lovely guitar prodigy son, the lovely brain surgeon dad, and the lovely family donkey (I made the last one up, there is no Perowne family donkey, but if there was, you may be sure it would be the only donkey with a PhD in Egyptology from Balliol College, Oxford). But I don’t think all this gush is to be taken at face value at all. I think it’s a kind of loathe letter to the British upper middle class, the people who have got it all, and whose lives are really quite like this. (For an American equivalent, see The Privileges by Jonathan Dee). This is a book about class (and other things), and about the difficult, inconvenient truth (in McEwan’s eyes, maybe) that the upper classes are necessary, however revolting their ineffable perfectness may be. As an instance of how I think we’re supposed to read this stuff, the son Theo has a guitar talent & so because of some string-pulling and connections, he gets to “jam” with some “blues greats” like Jack Bruce and Eric Clapton. Yes, I reached for the sick bag during this passage too, but I believe McEwan wants us to.I loved all the neurosurgery stuff, which some readers found boring. Au contraire, I thought it was Ballardian, beautiful and convincing.I liked McEwan’s efforts in trying to make us see the macro in the micro – the greater political event of the looming invasion of Iraq is set off with the personal event of the home invasion; the determinism which Perowne sees will cause the Iraq invasion can be also seen in the descriptions of Baxter’s inevitable fate. I liked the 18 page description of a game of squash and thought this was a crafty homage to Don DeLillo’s Underworld. I liked that McEwan is almost the exact British equivalent of Jonathan Franzen – yes, McEwan’s novels are short affairs and a re produced regularly, but both writers are writing about NOW, THIS VERY MINUTE, and all of our compromised, mortgaged squishy-squashy middleclass lives. In three words : a heroic failure.* First come the journalists with their long lenses and rough drafts – they’re fast, they often work in packs and they don’t look back. They leave the crossing of the t’s and the dotting of the I’s to others. Then walking behind the journalists come lonelier figures, the historians and the novelists.

  • Wen
    2018-11-04 14:20

    This wasn’t my favorite Ian McEwan. Admittedly there were very valid points in some of the negative reviews. But I’m partial regarding to McEwan--his mesmerizing prose, particularly his superb interpretation of music (e.g. jazz/blues in this book and modern classical in Amsterdam) woke up all my senses.

  • John Brooks
    2018-11-06 09:59

    I would not qualify "Saturday" as McEwan's best work. I think the argument begins and ends with "Atonement" in terms of sheer literary achievement. But "Saturday" is McEwan's most immediate work; the one that feels most like a significant and honest byproduct of both the time and place from which it emerged and the man from whose mind materialized. To be clear, I adore "Atonement" and, for all its heart-wrenching and visceral exploration of obsession and paranoia, I love "Enduring Love"."Saturday" is an oddity because, by placing itself in the middle of one man's life, in the middle of his family, and in the middle of the most significant period of our time (that span between September 11th, 2001, and the advent of the Iraq war), it somehow manages to be about everything, the way that our own lives are *about* everything. It is about love, family, aging, neurosurgery, home, poetry, literature, sex, violence, identity, war, fear, paranoia, despair, hope; virtually nothing is untouched, and the whole thing occurs in one day, as Henry Perowne, the flawed but amiable protagonist, recounts the minutes of this one day. This can be as banal as it sounds, and more often it is moving, even reviting, to live in someone else's mind, to have access to the ups and downs and even the dull moments, for just one day. The Saturday in question is the one during the largest protest in human history, the London protest against the Iraq invasion, took place, and so it was never meant to be an ordinary Saturday for Henry. McEwan, true to form, makes ample use of metaphor and symbolism, reducing enormous global fluxes to personal experience. In the hands of most writers, such tactics would be cheap and cliche, but McEwan, one of the most gifted living writers of fiction, knows that he has bought the right to employ such tactics.Because the point, ultimately, of "Saturday" is, quite beautifully, that those events that affect the whole world tend to affect each and every one of its inhabitants individually. So as the Perowne family suffers their own personal nightmare, together, as a family, it suddenly becomes simultaneously a much more *and* much less personal experience. It is as shared and universal as it is deeply disturbing and private. It is the bizarre paradox we face in this shrinking world of ours; nobody truly lives and experiences anything in isolation. It is a strange new world, but McEwan somehow reminds us how essentially similar massive, destructive global shifts are to all the trials and hardships we have always faced in our own tiny lives. It's a short, beautiful, and effective story about who we were then, where we are now, how all that changed, and how, in the end, things tend to remain defiantly the same.

  • Fabian
    2018-10-28 13:07

    For me, one-star ratings are very rare. & this is, without a doubt, one of the worst books... ever! The titular day is a bland array of stupid events that fill up a stupid life. The neurosurgeon atop his manse contemplates the plague of humanity living right below him (commoners, proletarians, drug addicts) all the while believing that his own existence is worthwhile as he parades around all the perks of being rich in a modern-day luxurious London. I detested this neo-bourgeoisie panorama too too much to continue about what a drag it was for a midlife twit to tell me how fabulous his house and wife are, how complete and neat and great he has it, how his over-pampered kids are both prodigies, how there's a fear super far away from this narrative in the form of a potential post-911 mass annihilation. Everything in P.O.V. of Perowne has a sense of simplicity and he tackles the main problems of the narrative with a sense of superior knowledge & worse, literary entitlement. Asshole! (It is also very clear that this is a Mrs. Dalloway prototype, but unlike Woolf's single day in the life of... , this one is all pretension) I would hate to meet this man and I am sorry to say that this does not dispel the notion that all medical professionals are lame. I am also sorry to admit that for somebody who wrote arguably one of the best love epics ever, "Atonement" the phenomenal, Mr. McEwan should be ashamed of himself for this piece of trash.

  • Marigold
    2018-10-25 11:18

    I loved this book! This is not a book for you if you’re looking for entertainment only, or light reading. This is a book full of layers, metaphors, parallels, & issues to think about. The thing that most reached out & grabbed me was the idea of a man going about his daily life (whether you find his daily life mundane or overly privileged or whatever), when unexpected events occur & change everything. That’s always sort of a scary theme for me! On the surface it’s the story of Henry, a successful London neurosurgeon; his wife Rosalind, a lawyer; their daughter, a soon to be published poet living in Paris; & their son, a blues musician, also on the brink of success. It’s a story that takes place over the course of one day – Feb 15, 2003, a day just before the start of the Iraq war, when there were huge anti-war demonstrations in London & around the world. That morning, Henry wakes up in the early morning hours & goes to look out the window. He sees an airplane headed toward Heathrow airport, & it appears to be in trouble. This encounter with disaster & possible terrorism informs & affects the rest of Henry’s Saturday. On this day, he’s planned a series of ordinary activities – a game of squash with a coworker; groceries; dinner, etc. Unfortunately, a minor traffic accident interrupts his plans, & brings his life into collision with Baxter, a – what? – small-time crook? – McEwan never specifically tells us – but we know Baxter has some sidekicks who don’t hesitate to use violence. Henry sees that Baxter has neurological symptoms that he’s able to instantly diagnose as a debilitating & fatal genetic disease. All of that is the surface story. Along the way, you get to learn about neurosurgery – fascinating! I thought the detail about this was really interesting, tho have seen a lot of criticism about its inclusion. Really? Roll with it, you might learn something! You get to learn about the game of squash, literature, poetry, genetic diseases, the aging process, music, & cooking – all parts of Henry’s day or his thinking about his day. You get to think about war & peace & terrorism & fear & politics - & how these huge issues affect all of us even as we cope with the details of our lives. (Maybe you don’t want to think about these things – in which case, don’t read this book!) Themes to find: The need for control in our lives, what things we have control over, what we don’t, & what happens when unexpected events make us doubt our control. The fear of lack of control or losing control. Work – competitiveness – how it affects our relationships. Biological determinism – to what extent is our destiny controlled by our genes? Violence, war, & what forces are available to us to counteract violence. Seems like a lot of people were disturbed by Henry’s family being “too perfect.” Legitimate – but here’s a theme to look for – the four disciplines of medicine, law, literature & music - & how they stack up against forces of chaos & violence. There’s a whole idea to think about that has to do with Henry & how the different parts of his personality work for or against him in the particular struggle he faces on this Saturday – or do his children represent different parts of him? Or parts of a greater whole that he needs to integrate? And who is Baxter, really? Maybe he’s part of Henry too – in a sense (read the end!) – or part of that greater whole. What does his reaction to the poem that Daisy recites, mean to the story? Another theme – creativity - & what would it mean to a dying man, to have the ability to create something like a poem, that has a life of its own, & an ability to inspire particular feelings & longings in others? I could go on but this is much too long! I thought “Saturday” was FASCINATING.

  • Jason Koivu
    2018-11-19 11:07

    I found this book: Saturday by Ian McEwan.Then I read it.Things happened, some exciting and some less so, nothing of super consequence. I finished the book. I put it away and forgot about it.I then went on to another book.That's my reading experience and that's the arc of Saturday. It's a "day in the life of" short story dragged out into novel length. Granted there's plenty packed into that day and it's admirably juggled by McEwan.The main character is accosted. He happens to be a doctor and that coincidentally is very helpful. His family is under siege. Oh what to do?! Whatever does happen, I assure you, it happens all within one day. Thus the title. At first I couldn't pinpoint what about this that left me flat, but now I can. It feels pointless, like an exercise. I never felt engaged. So you had a rough day and things are weighing on your mind. Meh. I suppose it would make a good party story, but reading a full-length novel's worth of this anecdote dragged me down.

  • Maciek
    2018-10-28 07:54

    Short version: GOD IT WAS BORING.Long version: You know the anecdote that a succesful novelist could publish his shopping list and people would buy it? That's the case with Saturday. A chronicle of 24 hours from the life of neurosurgeon Henry Perowne, the novel is full of his ruminations, reminiscences, all described in painful, tedious detail. McEwan fails to build an actual plot; instead you'll be sure to hear every single event, no matter how irrelevant and drawn out (there's an 18 page description of a squash game that's boring to death!). If you liked Remembrance of Things Past this book might appeal to you; Henry takes 60 pages to get out of the sheets.The characters are all disgustingly one-dimensional; starting with Henry Perowne, the most gifted brain surgeon of his generation who plays squash and owns an awesome ride, mercedes of course; his wife, Rosalynd, the beautiful lawyer who seems to posess no negative attributes whatsoever; the hipster son, a handsome, talented blues musician; beautiful daughter who's a published poet; Henry's father who bears the incredibly pretentious surname of "Grammaticus" (he's a poet too, of course) and Henry's mom, an acclaimed swimmer (she's the most likable character in the book - maybe because she's suffering from dementia).McEwan is not in any way gentle or subtle in presenting his own beliefs, and as he is an atheist then so is his hero. Henry doesn't believe in any supreme force, doesn't like writers who employ the supernatural, is bored with literature in general - much like the reader is bored with his ramblings. McEwan blandly uses his characters as mouthpieces, and the road to individual insight is forced and devoid of any nuance - he'll spend 20 pages describing a squatch game, then go onto his rant about science or the war in Iraq, then go and describe some mundane activities again, return to rants about cultural differences and religion, break it, rinse and repeat. It's clumsy, irritating and becomes unbearable pretty quick. Did I mention hundreds of pages about neurosurgery? Well, maybe not hundreds - it feels more like thousands. Why was it critically acclaimed you might ask? It's pretty simple. Saturday is exactly what one would expect to read in the so called Literary Novel - take in the one day setting and scream of consciousness from Wolf and Joyce, mix in the character study of James, complete with the dulness of Melville and voila! Your cocktail is ready and you will learn many new, exquisite things: war protesters often lack knowledge about war and are simply protesting, thugs and bullies are bad, science is cool and friends can occasionally be disappointing.Compare it to mixing various alcohols - wine, vodka, beer and tequila undoubtedly all work well on their own, but when you mix them all you know what will come out of it?Puke. That's a good description of Saturday - it's verbal puke.There is nothing controversial, thought provoking or challenging in this novel. It even has a Hollywood ending: the good doctor proves to be a quiet, admirable hero who eventually perserveres (with a help of a gigantic deus ex machina), but is as realistic as James Bond in his old days. Bond was fun though; Saturday is not.Saturday is genuine literature because there's absolutely nothing fun in it, nothing clever or in any way fresh. It is instead full of tedium, banal social commentary and uninteresting characters that don't posess a particle of humanity. There are no plot developments whatsoever (I would even argue about the existence of a plot in the first place). But it has long panderings about Iraq, science and most important of all - squash, so it must be "profound", "urgent" and "dazzling". Ideal Pulitzer material.

  • Ahmad Sharabiani
    2018-10-22 13:21

    2. Saturday, Ian McEwanThe book, published in February 2005 by Jonathan Cape in the United Kingdom and in April in the United States, was critically and commercially successful. Critics noted McEwan's elegant prose, careful dissection of daily life, and interwoven themes. It won the 2005 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction. It has been translated into eight languages.تاریخ نخستین خوانش: دسامبر سال 2010 میلادیعنوان: شنبه؛ نویسنده: ایان (یان) مک ایوان (مک یوون)؛ مترجم: مصطفی مفیدی؛ تهران، فرهنگ نشرنو؛ 1393؛ در 390 ص؛ شابک: 9786007439043؛ نسخه انگلیسی کتاب را خواندم، داستانی در باره حمله امریکا به عراق در سال 2003 میلادی ستا. شربیانی

  • Manny
    2018-10-29 12:04

    Warning: also contains major spoilers for Night TrainMany of the other reviewers say they're annoyed with Saturday on the grounds that the main character's life is too implausibly perfect - a successful neurosurgeon with a beautiful wife, two talented children, a lovely home, etc etc. He's even a pretty decent squash player. So how can Henry possibly fill the Everyman role he's apparently meant to inhabit? Well, it seems to me that McEwan is making a sensible point here. Compared to most people in human history, and indeed to most people in the world today, your average educated Westerner (e.g. your average person who posts on Goodreads) is unbelievably privileged. Of course, most of us aren't quite as privileged as Henry, but, when you compare against the great mass of humanity, the difference is so small that it's close to technical. So, the natural question that arises is: how are we making use of our incredible good fortune?It occurred to me that Saturday is in some ways a mirror-image of Martin Amis's Night Train, another novel that people often slam. In the Amis book, we also have an extraordinarily fortunate character. Jennifier is young, beautiful, greatly loved and, on top of everything else, a cutting-edge research astrophysicist. (Amis is a big fan of astrophysics). And what does she do with all of this amazing luck? At the end, it turns out that she's killed herself for no reason at all! Given Amis's general preoccupation with our society's self-destructive trajectory, I think the intended message is clear. We are Jennifer: we could have a paradise if we were just the tiniest bit sensible, but instead we're destroying ourselves and the whole world for no reason.In Saturday, I felt that the set-up was basically the same, but the final message was positive. Some parts of the story are indeed implausible (you are unlikely to deter a psychotic rapist by reciting Dover Beach). All the same, I liked the ending, where, almost without thinking, Henry uses his surgeon's skills to save the life of the man who, a few hours ago, was trying to kill him. This is right; this is how one should show appreciation for the gifts that fortune has showered on us.I know, I know. Moral parables are unfashionable at the moment, and elegant despair is the cool choice. I still thought McEwan was saying something worthwhile here.

  • Lori
    2018-11-11 14:15

    Ok. I usually force myself to finish each novel I start. (with the two exceptions so far being Catch 22 and Atlas Shrugged).. I do this (1) to at least get my moneys worth, and (2) because I know somewhere in there, there must be a part worth waiting for. This book fell into the (2) catagory. It was an impossible bore throughout most of the novel, with one interesting fight in an alley due to a fender bender.... until you hit the last 50 pages. For me, hitting those last chapters was like breaking the surface of the water after holding your breath for an uncomfortably long time, and getting that first great gasp of cool, refreshing, life-continuing air!!!! I would really not recommend this book to anyone who isnt willing to be bored to sleep whilst reading. (Which happened to me quite often). I can read a book in a matter of days, this one was dragged out for almost 2 weeks. I just couldnt stay awake long enough to complete it.... (Yawn)!

  • Helle
    2018-10-24 06:56

    There’s something mesmerizing about Ian McEwan’s writing which results in my having a peculiar kind of blind spot when it comes to his stories. No matter how ordinary they are; no matter how unremarkable they appear at first sight, or how construed they clearly are, I am helplessly drawn into the universe of his prose. There’s some kind of stylistic vortex that just sucks me in.As in many of his novels, the plot hinges on one event, though in this novel it might be two: first, the protagonist, Henry Perowne, sees a burning airplane in the middle of the night – a symbol, apparently, of the post 9/11 world that we live in. Second, he has a chance encounter with a dubious character which sets off a chain of events, although on a meta-level, that event in itself is somehow connected with the first (though it’s not entirely clear to me how), as are subsequent events. Henry Perowne is a neurosurgeon at a London hospital. He lives on a leafy street in Fitzrovia, the part of London that houses Bloomsbury, which is surely no coincidence. McEwan himself lived there until a few years ago, and so did Virginia Woolf. Henry’s Saturday – which includes the viewing of the plane, the incident with the stranger, a squash game which we hear about in great detail, a family dinner, an operation, the minutiae of which we are likewise treated to – is somehow reminiscent of (possibly inspired by?) Mrs. Dalloway. Mrs. D, too, stays within a few blocks of her own home as she meanders through the streets of London and records every little thing that she gazes at – all in just one day. She, too, is an upper-middle class Londoner, though Henry Perowne seems more satisfied with his lot in life than she does. His philosophizing meanderings, however, are as labyrinthine as hers but belong, of course, to a different era. (Another reviewer, though negative about the novel, has pointed out that McEwan’s character study seems inspired by Henry James, which is a good and plausible observation; McEwan’s influences, according to himself, include both Woolf and James. No doubt there are other references in the novel that I’ve failed to pick up on).Few of McEwan’s novels are as earth-shattering as Atonement, my first and favourite of his novels, and on one level I wasn’t terribly interested in Henry Perowne’s perfect life and perfect family. And yet the novel has that certain je ne sais quoi that makes me stop and wonder about things both during and after the reading. Perhaps it is due to the way in which McEwan notices and portrays people and things in the world, the way in which he zooms in on and draws out little incidents in his near perfect prose. On the surface it is simply about a day in the life of Perowne, but it becomes emblematic of modern life (in the upper-middle classes) with its antagonists and protagonists, its small tragedies and heroic acts, its ugliness and its beauty, its fears and its hopes. I have to say, though, that especially the happier parts of these equations characterized Henry Perowne’s life. Unlike many reviewers in here, however, I didn’t have a problem with that; it was a slice of a life, and they come in all shapes and sizes.

  • Will Byrnes
    2018-10-30 11:17

    Henry Perowne is a busy 48-year-old London neurosurgeon. Saturday, in 2003, two years after the 9/11 attacks and as the invasion of Iraq ears, is a single day in his life. We peek in at every thought that crosses this fellow’s mind over the course and react with him to the events that occur, such as seeing a flaming plane cross the London sky, getting mugged by a trio of toughs, losing a squash match to his buddy. Ian McEwan - from his site - Photo Credit: Annalena McAfee Saturday is no one’s notion of an action yarn, and I found myself pining for something more to occur, something to take us out of this guy’s skull. But I guess remaining inside it is the point. Later, the toughs invade his home, force his daughter to strip. Not hard to see a 9/11 reference in this. He tries to think through a plan, manages to distract the main antagonist and gains some time until other hands jump in. Later he is faced with a choice about whether or not to help the crook (Baxter). How does one handle oneself under stress; the stresses of modern life; the range of considerations in making moral choices, seeing one’s children growing up and becoming their own people? Contemporary life in the head of an intelligent, thoughtful man. If not exactly thrilling, ultimately, I felt it was a smart, worthwhile read.You can find out more about McEwan and his many other works at his site.

  • Kaya
    2018-10-30 13:06

    McEwan is one of my favourite authors and that is why this review is so painful for me, trust me. I put a lot of effort to like this book and understand it, to read between the lines, find a hidden meaning. But I failed to comprehend it. It’s meaningless and it frustrates me that I don’t know what message McEwan was trying to send. Saturday is set in 2003, two years after the 9/11 attacks and in the middle of Iraq invasion. It presents a single day in narrator’s life. Harry has a well-paid job that he loves, perfect wife and two flawless children that he adores. Needless to say they live a comfortable life with a lot of benefits that higher class serves. The plot consists of endless descriptions of how awesome and successful characters are. Harry’s wife is a beautiful lawyer who has no negative traits, his son is a handsome and talented blues musician, and his beautiful daughter Daisy is a published poet; The only plot line I cared about was Daisy’s relationship with her grandfather, and even that was underdeveloped. I can't believe I stumbled upon a McEwan book that I genuinely don't like. The writing is compelling, like always, but the plot is messy. The novel has as low start. I guess that with McEwan it’s either hit or a miss. Even when things actually happened, they were narrated along with the protagonist's distracting thoughts. This could’ve been easily a powerful short story. Sadly, there is nothing controversial or thought-provoking in this novel. It even has an americanised ending. I guess this is one of the reasons I’m not fond of the novel. The problem is that I’m just used to problematic topics in McEwan’s novels. For 50 pages, the protagonist talks about how much he adores his wife, it was unbearable. His life is too perfect. Supposedly, Henry is most gifted brain surgeon of his generation who plays squash and owns an expensive car. How could I connect with the character that has a personality of a Barbie? There was no conflict, nothing that seeks resolution.

  • Carol
    2018-11-16 13:02

    Saturday, a day in the life of a neurosurgeon, is my first experience with Ian McEwan, and I'm afraid it didn't go well for me. The tedious writing style with umpteen unnecessary subject matters thrown in pretty much put me off. There are a couple of OH NO! moments though, and I did want to find out how the good doctor handled his (view spoiler)[revengeful (hide spoiler)] last surgery of the day, so 3 Stars it is and a hopeful move forward to Atonement bc I happen to own that novel too.

  • Lain
    2018-11-13 09:51

    Rare is the author who can write a compelling story in clear prose. Rarer still is the author who can create fine and distinct layers of meaning while maintaining that clear narrative. Ian McEwan is one of those authors. In the tradition of "Mrs. Dalloway," "Saturday" traces the ordinary activities of an ordinary man, neurologist Henry Preowne. Against the backdrop of a huge anti-war march in London, Henry goes about his daily activities -- a squash game, checking in on his patients at the hospital, getting ready for a dinner with family. Much as the world changed irrevocably after September 11, this day is one that will never be forgotten. A minor car accident with a neurologically impaired man has cataclysmic effects for Henry, his family, and the man himself. Taking on issues of terrorism, war, and duty, "Saturday" is a touching story of the ordinary man trying to do the right thing when "the right thing" isn't clear. I think that some of the other readers may have had issues with the disparate themes -- brain surgery, al Qaida, war, terrorism, family -- because they are not easily tied together, other than to say that those of us who look like terrorists (i.e., Baxter) may have other, non-apparent reasons for our actions. Terrorism is in the eye of the beholder, and the world is full of shades of grey. Those of us who try to take simple stances on tough questions are guilty of limited thinking. This book is worth a read -- let it sit with you, and see what connections you make for yourself.

  • NocturnalBlaze
    2018-11-19 05:57

    Sabato è un romanzo che conferma la grande capacità di McEwan come narratore, un racconto che mi è rimasto dentro e che mi ha scosso, colpendomi in maniera profonda. Fin dall'inizio ci si rende conto che quello descritto non è un sabato qualunque nella vita del nostro protagonista e man mano che si va avanti, in un crescendo di tensione e di avvenimenti dalle tinte sempre più drammatiche, è chiaro che quella raccontata è una storia che va oltre la semplice cronaca di un giorno molto sfortunato, diventando l'analisi di un mondo imprevedibile e incerto. Di questo romanzo ciò che mi ha colpito maggiormente è il perfetto equilibrio fra introspezione e azione, fra analisi psicologica e descrizione incalzante delle vicende. Da una parte abbiamo un protagonista, medico e padre di famiglia, che impariamo a conoscere perfettamente tramite flashback (forse non tutti utilissimi o interessanti, ma è un rischio calcolato da parte dell'autore) e un approfondimento della sua personalità dettagliato, interessante e sfaccettato, mentre dall'altra si dipana una storia dove l'avvicendarsi delle azioni è continuo, succede tanto e tutto si svolge in maniera veloce, appassionante, che mi ha catturato con grande forza. Come spesso accade nei romanzi di McEwan, abbiamo due impostazioni narrative importanti del suo stile: il dilemma etico e il grande evento drammatico che sconvolge la vita dei personaggi. Anche in questo caso, il modo in cui l'autore dipana questi aspetti è magistrale, sia dal punto di vista stilistico, con pochissime sbavature e uno stile generalmente ricco e scorrevole al tempo stesso, che narrativo, grazie a dei ritmi azzeccatissimi ed una trama che riesce a unire bene il tutto.Qualche difettuccio c'è, come i già citati flashback talvolta un po' superflui o qualche piccolo espediente narrativo non così convincente, ma nel complesso mi sono trovata di fronte un grande libro, che analizza in maniera interessantissima temi come la violenza, l'insicurezza sempre più percepita nella società moderna (in particolare quella post-11 settembre rappresentata nel volume), la medicina e la professione medica, l'etica, la morale, giusto per citare alcuni esempi. Un racconto magistrale, davvero ben strutturato, che non ha fatto altro che alimentare e ribadire il mio amore incondizionato nei confronti di questo scrittore.

  • Janet
    2018-11-04 10:58

    I hated this book. He's a great writer but this was pure bullshit. The best doctor in London married to the best lawyer in London, their kids a world class guitarist and a world class poet, the grandfather a world class poet too and even the goddamn grandmother was a channel swimmer. Isn't there one damn slacker in the whole group? Just one fat daughter who dated a criminal amputee and worked at the 7-11? please? I believed this book for a fast 2.5 seconds. Every punch is pulled. I wanted the crap beaten out of that doctor, not fast talking his say out of it. No permanent damage anywhere. I'd have given it one star but for the writing itself.

  • Rose
    2018-11-06 06:54

    No spoilers here. This book explores the events of Henry Perowne's Saturday, which I can kind of see as a metaphor for a person's life. You start out with nothing but potential, events happen, and each day ends with its own sort of oblivion - sleep. As with Atonement, McEwan's prose in this book was simply delicious. At the end of this review are some of my favorite passages that I just needed to type out for my own memory's sake.But I also think that reading Atonement first spoiled me. I was expecting this book to wallop me just like that novel had, but it didn't pack quite the same punch. While the narration of the everyday stuff was engrossing, the narration of the actual plot points was unbelievable. And, btw, the plot points are few and far between. Also, another reviewer of this book made a point that the character of Henry Perowne had a little too much going for him. His wife was beautiful, his daughter was beautiful, his son was talented, and he was a great surgeon. It gets a little boring. And don't get me started on how annoying it gets to constantly hear that female characters are "beautiful." This has become a pet peeve of mine, but should probably be the subject of a livejournal entry or something.Forgetting that, the book was still good. It's amazing how well McEwan can explore the themes he picks. And after reading this and Atonement, it's hard to miss what a staunch materialist McEwan is (the scientific, deterministic sort of materialist - not the kind that likes to buy stuff). Events and catalysts are all causes and effects of other things. Moods, interactions, fights from decades past, car accidents - they are all the cause of hormones, or neurons, or world leaders' actions thousands of miles away. It's impossible to chronicle every action and re-action, but McEwan artfully shows us how deterministic this world is and what we can attempt to do in our slide toward oblivion.A couple favorite passages below demonstrate this materialism.1.) [at a fish market] "Henry liked to put to himself when he was a schoolboy: what are the chances of this particular fish, from that shoal, off that continental shelf, ending up in the pages, no, on this page of this copy of the Daily Mirror? Something just short of infinity to one. Similarly, the grains of sand on a beach, arranged just so. The random ordering of the world, the unimaginable odds against any particular condition still please him. Even as a child, and especially after Aberfan, he never believed in fate or providence, or the future being made by someone in the sky. Instead, at every instant, a trillion trillion possible futures; the pickiness of pure chance and physical laws seemed like freedom from the scheming of a gloomy god" (pages 128-129).2. [while pondering the workings of the human brain] "For all the recent advances, it's still not known how this well-protected one kilogram or so of cells actually encodes information, how it holds experiences, memories, dreams and intentions. He doesn't doubt that in years to come, the coding mechanism will be known... But even when it [is], 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?" (page 262)3. There are a few interesting thoughts developed from his trip to the nursing home to visit his mother, who is suffering from dementia. She is fixated fondly on her deceased mother: "How strange it would have been for Lily's mother, an aloof, unmaternal woman, to have known that the little girl at her skirts would one day, in a remote future, a science fiction date in the next century, talk of her all the time and long to be home with her. Would that have softened her? (page 168) There was also an amusing observation by the main character that the mundane happenings of his day would be considered extremely exciting to his nursing home-bound mother.Okay, that's enough for now, but it's a beautiful and quick read, and I can see how this could spark a lot of discussion, so I'd recommend it. I'd especially recommend it to stone cold naturalists, of which I am one!

  • Wanda
    2018-10-27 10:06

    I guess it speaks volumes that many days have passed since I finished Saturday and I really didn’t have too much to say about it. It was very well written—the story pulled me swiftly along until the end (once I finally committed to starting the novel). I liked the main character, Henry, well enough. Saturday made me realize what privileged lives we lead in the developed world. What passes for a bad day for Henry (minor car accident, bad squash game, visit to his mother with dementia, disagreement with his daughter, etc.) is really a pretty excellent day compared to most people in the world. He has a job that he loves and that pays well, he has a wife and two children that he loves, and he lives very comfortably. I have said before and will say again that many pets in North America live better than the majority of humans in the world. Now, there’s nothing wrong with providing good lives for our animals, but it should give one pause, should it not? Consumerism is the worm in the apple—as we exploit resources and contaminate the world where everyone has to live, can we really expect that there will be no resentment? When we “enjoy” capitalism and individualism and by doing so seem to devalue societies that are based on communal values and on having “enough”? Plus, there is great inequality within our own society—I heard on the CBC radio this morning that the top 1% of richest people will in 2015 own more than all the rest of us 99% all put together. And really, as Baxter, the criminal in Saturday, could attest, all the money in the world cannot give us some things—like our health. If I have come away with anything from Saturday, it is the determination to be less focused on things and more focused on the people in my life. For years, I’ve been giving tickets to events as gifts when possible—experiences, rather than something that needs to be stored or dusted. I’ve been down-sizing my life & my needs for years and this book just encourages me to keep pursuing that path.I guess I had more to say about this book that I thought I did.

  • Rebecca McNutt
    2018-11-12 12:52

    Saturday is a compelling and gripping novel, sometimes quite dark but certainly worth it for its historical references and emotional family stories.

  • C.
    2018-11-08 12:16

    A day in the life of a neurosurgeon? Sounds interesting enough. A day in the life of a neurosurgeon, which just happens to be the day when a curious chain of events culminates in the aforementioned neurosurgeon performing an emergency operation upon the man who threatened to slit the throat of his wife and rape his daughter? Does that sound better, or just trashier?This book works thanks to the detail. I'm not sure if it's McEwan (I must reread Atonement and read some of his other books; Enduring Love is on the pile) or just the persona he took on for this novel, but the protagonist Henry Perowne hyperanalyses every single instant in his life. And endlessly self-justifies. It may just be my unreasonable but deep-rooted hatred for neurosurgeons speaking here, but do I really want to be reading three pages about some rich guy explaining why he doesn't feel bad about spending a lot of money on a fancy car? It sounds to me like he's trying to convince someone here.When On Chesil Beach was published, I read a review that criticised, in passing, the implausibility of Saturday's ending. Since then I haven't been able to forget that. Not only does the ending now seem totally ludicrous, but a lot of what seemed like magic when I first read the book now looks suspiciously like dross. The characters, for example, do not possess a realism that would withstand more than a passing glance; most of them, in fact, possess a rather nauseating aura of Mary-Sueness. The rich, handsome neuroscientist, who has got everything he has through sheer hard work. The budding poet daughter, the up-and-coming guitarist son, the intelligent, beautiful wife snatched from the jaws of blindness, the massive house, the French chateau, the squash, the irritable father-in-law. Everything is bathed in an almost soap-operatic glow of perfect-but-slightly-damaged-so-that-it-has-character upper-class Englishness. And it's not at all realistic. In fact, I found myself sympathising with the greasy sleazy criminal guy with the brain disorder.I can't help wondering, though, if McEwan does this deliberately (though all his books seem flawed to some degree; maybe he just doesn't see what he's doing wrong). Possibly this perfect family represents some sort of dream stereotype/archetype in the human psyche - the genteel, urbane, well-offness of upper-class British lifestyle for which we all strive to some degree. Maybe it was sort of an attempt to dispel the stereotype by showing that these presumably perfect people have problems in their lives too? But no, that doesn't work. Because their problems are so melodramatic and unrealistic that they would clearly never happen to any of us plebs. Evidently only the 'beautiful people' can stop bad things happening in their lives by reciting poetry. Whatever its faults, though, everything is saved by McEwan's beautiful prose, and this makes me give a much higher rating than seems justified by what I just said. Because despite everything that may or may not be wrong with this book, I really enjoyed it and this was primarily because of the way he writes. I swear he could write a novel about a bootlace and make it un-putdownable. Meticulous, erudite, elegant, flawless. Such talent is unbelievable. Reading through it again, it's interesting that there doesn't seem to be any particular stylistic features to his work that stand out. He seems just to write normally, but really really really well. And he writes about interesting things: the Iraq war, evolution, Islam and Alzheimer's disease, among other topics. There are some really great bits about literature and poetry, too.I've just spent about forty minutes looking through all the pages I dog-eared as being particularly outstanding examples of his prose, and there are so many to choose from. This particular one doesn't sparkle as much as some, but I think it is a good illustration of his ability to combine beautiful writing with concepts that make interesting reading."For all the recent advances, it's still not known how this well-protected one kilogram or so of cells [the brain:] actually encodes information, how it holds experiences, memories, dreams and intentions. He doesn't doubt that in years to come, the coding mechanism will be known, though it might not be in his lifetime. 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 can't begin to imagine as satisfactory account, but 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. It's already happening... and the journey will be completed, Henry's certain of it. That's the only kind of faith he has. There's grandeur in this view of life."

  • Amanda Patterson
    2018-11-01 07:17

    I took this book out of desperation. There seems to be so little good fiction out there at the moment. I wish I hadn’t. I began to hope that Saturday would become Sunday very quickly as I started to read. I think McEwan gets by on his literary accolades alone. Apparently he won the Booker Prize for Amsterdam in 1998. He has also written 8 other novels. I would dare another publisher to take him on under a pseudonym – and to succeed.McEwan, as always, dwells on the damage and darkness of life. Henry Perowne, a neurosurgeon, awakes at dawn and sees a plane coming down trailing fire. It is also the morning of the antiwar march, the greatest ever massing of people on London’s streets. With 9/11 in the ether, McEwan couldn’t resist, could he? We are thrust into this awful man’s mental anguish and delight about almost everything. I was bored to tears. I felt no empathy whatsoever with Perowne or his wife, Rosalind and their poetry writing daughter, Daisy. I couldn’t have cared less about his game of squash with an anaesthetist colleague. Or his battles with tumours and trauma. I think that McEwan is laughing at the rest of the world when he writes. The pretentious changing of tenses and deliberate non-use of dialogue irritated me. I have to confess I did not finish the book. As one of Perowne’s own patients, heaven help her, might decide, life is too short.Reviewer: Amanda PattersonRating: 1/5

  • Marcello S
    2018-11-06 08:18

    (Quasi) sempre alti e bassi con McEwan.C’è poco da fare: il suo stile elegante è uno dei punti di forza. Solo che ci mette davvero poco a diventare lezioso e indolente. Me lo immagino, il buon Ian, lì nella sua villetta di Oxford coi gomiti appoggiati sulla scrivania di legno pregiato e un bicchiere di scotch a portata di mano - le Variazioni Goldberg in sottofondo - mentre immagina storie di professionisti dallo status sociale invidiabile e dalle abitudini costose che si muovono in vestaglia nella casetta a tre piani da 250 mq dalle parti della British Library.Secondo me gli va meglio quando ambienta le sue storie a metà ‘900 (Espiazione, Chesil Beach) che quando fa l’ultra-contemporaneo.Ne esce fuori una scrittura che ha pochi punti di contatto con quello che racconta.Qui ci si dilunga un po’ a parlare di squash, poesia, chirurgia, famiglia, guerra, manifestazioni, violenza. Buona, per quanto chiaramente non nuova, l’idea di svolgere l’azione in un’unica giornata. L’architettura non è male con tutte le singole parti che confluiscono in quella finale. Anche se proprio questo finale, ecco, poteva essere meno didascalico.Disquisizioni post 11 settembre su occidente e medio oriente purtroppo molto attuali. A conti fatti un'onesta via di mezzo. [69/100]

  • Reid
    2018-10-24 10:02

    Atonement was a great novel, a pretty good movie as well. But Saturday is tighter, a more personal novel, more focused and perhaps more human. I originally got interested in this book as it was compared to Proust and I wanted to get the gist without slogging through thousands of pages to get that done. The action is almost entirely in Perowne's head, which really gave me a glimpse into McEwan himself. I suppose I think it's impossible to get outside one's own thoughts, I think that might be part of what Kant is trying to say in terms of ontology. But yeah, the way we follow his thoughts is amazing, illustrative of the way an English neurosurgeon's mind works. I read this novel in just over a day and will seek out more by McEwan, who reminds me most of a British T.C. Boyle, or maybe it's the other way around. Either way, two terrific authors. This is definitely one to pass on to parents, with great images of middle age and watching their children step into adulthood with all its challenges and rewards. A phenomenal novel, one of the best I've read all year.

  • M. D.Hudson
    2018-11-08 05:52

    Found this at the neighborhood Salvation Army thrift store, and since I’d read several glowing reviews when it came out in ’05, I decided to take the plunge and read a contemporary novel by one of literature’s big names. Right off the bat I can’t recall when a novel has ever filled me with more resentment that Ian McEwan’s Saturday did. Some other reviewer referred to its “medical porn” (the protagonist is a brain surgeon) but the real porn has to do with wealth and cultural entitlement, which the hero and his family has in ludicrous abundance. As a reader, I tend to be a bit thick, but about halfway through I was wondering whether McEwan had written a brilliant parody of some sort. Get a load of these characters:Henry Perowne: 48, highly-regarded neurosurgeon, diligent, hard-working, highly-skilled, far too busy to know much of anything about the arts, but far too generous in spirit to be a philistine. The deal is that he is too gainfully employed, too useful to the world, to let much leak in around the rubber seals of his life’s substantial hatches. Saturday is his day off, and there is a big old protest about the impending invasion of Iraq going on outside his house, so he gets time to maunder about terrorists and politics and getting older and stuff. He wakes up too early and happens to see from his window a plane go down in flames towards Heathrow. Throughout the book bits of newscasts follow this story – are they terrorists? Muslim or Christian? This gives the book, I guess, an undercurrent of contemporary fear but it always feels rather tacked-on. The story piddles out eventually, which is how such things go, so I applaud McEwan’s tact here. Real drama is provided when Perowne crashes his Mercedes into three thugs in a BMW – they are about to beat him up when the good doctor correctly diagnosis the head thug (Baxter) with Huntington’s Chorea, which defuses the situation and humiliates the head thug. Then he plays a very detailed game of squash at the club with his anesthesiologist. He loses, but just barely, and mostly because the anesthesiologist cheats at the end, and because he is still upset by the mugging. Spoiler alert: the thugs come back later in the book…Perown does not appear to be particularly handsome, thank God – his hands don’t look very surgeony – but even his ordinariness is couched in the usual novel hero terms: he is tall, rangy tall, not pear-shaped tall. His hair is thinning, but only thinning. He is beginning to go soft around the middle, but just a little. His joints ache, but just a tad. Rosalind: Perowen’s wife, who he met 25 years before in the ER when she had an emergency operation to remove a (benign) pituitary tumor while she was in law school. Perowne was a resident (or whatever they’re called in the UK -- I notice his staff referred to him as “Mr.” rather than “Dr.”) and although he did not himself perform the heroic surgery, he got to swab her mouth with alcohol before and remove the stitches from inside her lip afterwards (pituitary surgery goes in through the nose – brilliantly described by McEwan, as were all the medical porn parts). Rosalind is tiny, almost child-sized, with a remarkable abundance of hair and saucer-sized green eyes. Yep, I’m not making that up. After brain surgery, she sat up in her bed, surrounded by heavy law tomes, her gargantuan wad of luxuriant chestnut (or honeysuckle or moonbeam I forget which) hair fanned out around her in a heavenly nimbus. Now, she is also a brilliant lawyer for a big newspaper (throughout the Saturday of the book, she is in some “emergency meeting at High Court”…on a Saturday, which is rather remarkable, I’d think). Whatever she does, it’s important and high-powered and McEwan gives a bit of clumsy set-up about how she loves to win cases but most loves it when her arguments nudge the legal system, and thus the world, a little closer to an ideal of truth and justice. Little of this slashing ambition is glimpsed in the novel, however. She’s a bit of a cipher, a perfect one to be sure, serving to show that Perowne, after years of marriage, still adores her, and wants to make love to only her, a fact he is self-conscious about, and yet faintly smug about as well. Oh yeah, like all toothsome, lithesome fictional females, she sleeps like a child, making a tiny bump under the sheets – no drool or sprawl. Despite all the description lavished on her to make her smart and powerful, she is the flattest of the characters, barely passing through with a whisper, even when she is actually in the scene (including when she is having sex). With a few tweaks, she could have been transformed into an unusually placid housecat, except for the having sex part (which I should mention, happens briefly, but tenderly, as soon as she wakes up, tactfully avoiding the problem of two people in their mid-forties having sex the very first thing in the morning, full bladders and foul breath being two hazards that come to mind…but then perhaps I reveal my own dismal deterioration by bringing this up). Despite their two children (see below), there is very little evidence that Perowne or his wife have ever really been parents, but in England perhaps that sort of thing is taken care of by the hired help. But there’s no hired help either – Perowne goes to the fishmongers and cooks up in considerable detail the monkfish (which cost as much as Perown’s first car, so we are told) and prawns and skate’s skeletons (for the stock) and other expensive stuff taken from our dying seas (Perowne reflects on this dying sea situation while paying up at the fishmonger’s). The fish stew is food porn of course – lots of culinary detail as set up for a really expensive, exquisite meal, hand-prepared by exceptional people who can be expected to fret some about global warming and terrorism. Perowne brings up wine from the cellar. There are two bottles of champagne in the ‘fridge. Daisy: Perowne’s daughter, 23, and a poet living, apparently, off the family fortune (as all poets should be allowed to do). She is about to have her first book (of poems!) published by a prestigious firm (Faber & Faber or some such). As a poet exactly twice this character’s age, she filled me with sputtering rage at her success. But then McEwan felt obliged to provide us with bits of her verse. God, I love it when novelists take a whack at poetry: it’s just like prose except that you keep in the oven for an extra six hours (several actual bits (naughty bits) of Daisy’s verse are actually those of Craig Raines, acknowledged in the book). Rosalind has had a ton of lovers, so her father surmises from her poetry (one of which is about laundering the wet-spots out of the sheets after a lover has departed – a poem, of course, which won the Newdigate Prize, Oxford’s very prestigious undergrad prize). She is feisty and stubborn and constantly abrades her father for not being “cultural” enough – at age 14 she insisted on reading “The Metamorphosis” to her parents. Yeah, one of those girls. We all know one…oh, wait, no I don’t. Anyway, in young adulthood, she constantly bombards her father with books to expand his horizons, including, oddly, a biography of Charles Darwin…the good (great, fantastic, saintly) doctor doesn’t have enough time to read them because he has a job, but he is very good natured about the whole situation. According to information supplied by the author, these two engage in on-going fierce arguments and debates about life and culture, but the evidence provided is sketchy and not particularly convincing. She is of course petite and elfin and beautiful and etc. Theo: Perowne’s son, 18, a preternaturally brilliant blues guitarist. He dropped out of school and within minutes he “accidentally” jammed with, I think Ron Wood and met Clapton (through a “master class”) and takes lessons from Jack Bruce who introduced him to Long John Baldry…Ry Crooder sent him a mash note from the audience on the back of a soggy beer coaster. I couldn’t believe how McEwan piled it on for Theo – to the extent that again, I suspected a pastiche, a joke. Theo, not surprisingly, is even more insufferable than his sister and even less plausible. I mean the kid is good, real good. At this tender age, he has mastered all of blues guitars many nuances, is an acknowledged maestro. Needless to say he is languorous and blandly “cool” in rich kid ways – trips to Brazil and wherever, and when he cooks his lunch, he whips up vegetables and figs and yoghurt in a bowl. Just like all the teenage boys I’ve ever met. He did drop out of school, which caused his parents some distress, and provides a hopeful moment for this reader that the Perowne family was going to descend into the plausible, but his success (remember, he is 18!) as a musician – a blues musician – is such that his parents are now really really darned proud of him… His strong guitarist’s forearms are employed heroically at the end of the book. John Grammaticus: Perowne’s 70ish father-in-law. He is a drunk, which is very ably described by McEwan. However, he is also an embittered poet, famous, but not as famous (which is a big problem) as Andrew Motion, Heaney, etc. He lives in a French chateau somewhere in Imaginary Rich People France and has many lovers. Drunk, he provides the only comic relief in the book and he’s not very funny. His name comes from Shakespeare’s presumed source for Hamlet, Saxo Grammaticus, a medieval chronicler of Danish history. This name is shameless authorial preening for which McEwan should be fined stiffly. Anyway, Grammaticus turns Daisy on to poetry and is directly responsible for turning her into an insufferable, pretentious artiste. Later they have a falling out when he harshly criticizes her washing-the-sheets Newdigate prize poem. Perowne observes all of this mildly, gently reproaching himself for not being himself more inspirational to his daughter. He is the only actual defective human being in the Perowne family, but at the end he acts heroically and selflessly and so on. Baxter: the head thug with Huntington’s Disease. He is described as looking somewhat simian. But of course. Of course. But intelligent though. Just disadvantaged. Of course. Of course. Overall, I must say this is the most implausible and irritating cast of characters I have ever encountered in a non-genre novel. Stephen King, Philip K. Dick – anybody – would have bent all of them just a little. O but maybe such gods walk through this world, surgeons and federal reserve chairmen and district court judges and their spouses and children. But what a humorless lot – maybe one of the strategies of highly effective people is to discard humor. Perhaps it takes up too much time. The one American character, the cheating anesthesiologist is pointed out as being, like all Americans are, straight-shooting son-of-a-gun with a kind of hinted at potential for hilarity…and yet when you actually encounter him, he is nothing of the sort, really. Even drunk poet Grammaticus never gets funny when in his cups. The book’s other poet is no better – Daisy is throughout a humorless pain in the ass. But then novelists tend to do poets as ineptly as they do actual poems. Perhaps it is the lack of humour that creates such a film of implausibility over everything. The scenes where the characters interact (as opposed to where Perowne thinks deep thoughts internally) are very stiff (except the scenes in the hospital, which are by far the best, most plausible parts of the book). Daisy has been gone a long time, and is coming home that afternoon – Perowne, we are told, is very anxious to see her. When they meet, though, although McEwan skillfully explains the awkwardness of such reunions, never manages to capture anything particularly realistic in the dialog that would embody such awkwardness. It is novelist’s awkwardness, not human interaction awkwardness. The dialog is stiff as a soap opera’s most of the time…I kept reading because it was all skillfully put together – as ludicrous as they are, once set up McEwan keeps them in place and then runs them through a tight-paced plot. Sort of like a genre novel put together by an old pro – which made me wonder whether there is really such a thing as a non-experimental “literary” novel anymore, for the plot is astoundingly ridiculous. Let me demonstrate. I won’t run through the whole thing, but the climax of the book is riveting and giddily absurd (spoiler alert) – Baxter the Gangster and a henchman breaks into the house are on the brink of mayhem and have gone so far as to make Daisy the daughter take off all her clothes and are about to rape her, perhaps, when the main thug sees her book of poems (in proofs). Baxter pauses to pick up the book and forces her to read one. Stay with me here – I am not making this up – the thug is actually delaying his act of rapine to listen to a poem. Her grandfather, the drunk old poet, who has just had his nose broken by one of the thugs, wisely signals to his granddaughter to not read one of her own crappy sex poems, but rather to recite Matthew Arnold’s “Dover Beach” (which she has memorized, of course – we had earlier been told that she has memorized huge swatches of Shakespeare and Milton and so forth, like all the young poets do these days). Fortunately for the Perowne family, this classic Matthew Arnold poem is so moving to Baxter, that he lets down his guard in a virtual swoon of rapturous aesthetic bliss. He is disarmed by Perowne and his son and suffers a skull fracture in the scuffle. Three guesses as to which neurosurgeon gets to do brain surgery on Poetry-Loving, Huntington’s Disease-addled Gangster Baxter and save his life…. Really, the book’s plot is that ridiculous. Only in England: of the two thugs perpetrating the break-in, only one of them, Baxter, is armed – with a knife. Not some big bad Bowie knife, or commando knife with a built-in knuckle-duster hilt – rather, Baxter’s knife is described as being “an old-fashioned French kitchen knife, with an orange wooden handle and curved blade.” That’s it – one rather quaint knife. How nice. The other thug, unpromisingly named Nigel, apparently has no weapon at all, which means three grown men and two women are being held at bay by a French kitchen knife. An old-fashioned French kitchen knife, which, I should add, Baxter keeps taking in and out of his pocket, leading one to believe it was not a particularly sharp old-fashioned French kitchen knife. I am not saying I would be Superman in such a situation, but there was something very courtly about the exchange, for despite the disrobing and near-rape there was a poetry reading and a French kitchen knife (and why a French kitchen knife? What happened to the grand sword-making tradition of England, Willkinson Steel and all that?). As for the poem, this idea that music (or in this case poetry) can calm the savage beast is an old one, an ancient fantasy dreamed up by bards and troubadours and still making the rounds in contemporary novels. Dream on, poetasters! It would’ve been more plausible had the thugs made Theo play his blues guitar – then I could see them being impressed by art. But a Matthew Arnold recitation? This book is daft, Nigel. But it isn’t all bad, just mostly so. McEwan can be quite good at pity summations of character’s interactions. Perhaps the only truly interesting pairing is Perowne and his father-in-law, the drunk poet Grammaticus. Here is McEwan deftly summing up their relationship:“Perowne keeps his distance, and Grammaticus is happy with the arrangement, and looks straight through his son-in-law to his daughter, to his grandchildren. The two men are superficially friendly and at bottom bored by each other. Perowne can’t see how poetry – rather occasional work it appears, like grape picking – can occupy a whole working life, or how such an edifice of reputation and self-regard can rest on so little, or why one should believe a drunk poet is different from any other drunk; while Grammaticus – Perowne’s guess – regards him as one more tradesman, an uncultured and tedious medic, a class of men and women he distrusts more as his dependency on it grows with age.” (p. 201). Despite the riveting, ridiculous plot, and moments of plausible description, Saturday is one of those novels that reinforces my tendency to avoid novels. It wasn’t bad, exactly, but God, what a piffle it is. Everything’s too easy (the doctor’s entire life) or too hard (the thug about to mug him just happens to have what is about the worst disease imaginable, Huntington’s) or too silly (the plot, “Dover Beach,” the old-fashioned French kitchen knife, etc.). Some months ago I was going to read McEwan’s Atonement, but riffling through its pages, I came across some bits of dialog that scared me off with their stiffness and implausibility. I plan on keeping away.

  • Alan
    2018-10-28 13:09

    as usual expertly written - so why 2 stars? Because it is stupidly unbelievable - the hero is not only a great brain surgeon but an excellent squash player and a good cook, with a beautiful wife who loves him, a son who is a marvellous bass player (tutored by Jack Bruce!), and a daughter who is not only a good poet (and just out of her teenage years), but an award winning one too. The parents too are distinguished. There are maybe families like this around but I've never met them or known anyone that's ever been within 1000 miles of anyone like them. McEwan's world maybe different of course. The plot is preposterous and its denouement silly. The Iraq war connections are stuck on. Having said all that it's meticulously planned and superbly rendered, if you like reading about beautiful rich people ruminating on their lifestyles and being slightly ruffled by the world you might enjoy it.

  • Elizabeth (Alaska)
    2018-10-27 11:59

    I was inundated with information of no use to me because I don't know anything about:1. Neurosurgery, including the tools used and the technical/Latin names of brain parts2. Blues Guitar, including technique, songs and performers3. Modern Art, including the names of painters as if I'm familiar enough with them to understand a metaphorThere were also scattered instances where I had to re-read sentences because McEwan used what looked to me to be a noun's possessive form, but was in reality a contraction of the noun and the verb is. I don't necessarily mind re-reading sentences: sometimes my mind wanders, or sometimes I think perhaps what is being conveyed is more important than my attention has given it, or sometimes, because it is just plain beautiful. I do mind having to re-read when the author's prose lacks clarity. By page 125, I might have given up on this except for the fact that it was the 10th book in a 10-book challenge. So I persevered. It did get a little better - just a little - and enough so that I'll read another McEwan in case others will be more to my liking. Still, I cannot even add a third star, although the last 60 pages pushed it in that direction.