Author: Ian McEwan
Release Date: April 11, 2006
Genre: Literary Fiction
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4 out of 5
Saturday follows the course of one day in neurosurgeon Henry Perowne’s life. It begins with his early rise in the morning, only to witness a fiery plane crash at London’s Heathrow airport at his bedroom window. This fiery experience is indicative of Henry’s eventful day, as he has an encounter, the consequences of which will change his life and that of his family’s forever.
Saturday is a novel that takes place in just one day, from the time Henry Perowne wakes up to when he goes to bed. During that day, he undergoes all the mundanity of life, but also some shocking, unexpected twists that will change him forever. Henry himself is a sane man in a world gone mad. He tries to make sense of what he sees around him, the emotion, the negativity, the terrorism and finds himself lost. Despite this confusion, Perowne is satisfied in his bourgeois life - a gifted surgeon, he is comforted by his privileged existence, one that he worked hard for.
McEwan’s writing is razor sharp and precise; he wields his pen much like Henry wields a scalpel. Every word has its place and its own purpose; there are no stray phrases or errant thoughts. Much of the novel is Henry’s inner monologue about the world he lives in, and while sometimes his thoughts are engaging, they often drag. More than once, I found myself ready to find out what happens next in Henry’s day, rather than read pages of his thoughts on what has already occurred. This is not a novel of action, but is a contemplative one.
A main theme running through Saturday is that of consequences. All actions have their own consequences, whether observable or not, and Henry learns this in the most difficult way at the end of the book. The entire novel has an ominous feel; from the explosive beginning with the plane crash, readers know the book is building towards something, and that it probably isn’t good. It’s interesting to see how McEwan uses this dread and the shock of violence as a metaphor for the world’s experience at dealing with terrorism.
While Saturday was certainly an interesting novel, it wasn’t my favorite of McEwan’s. I found my attention wandering more than once, and Henry and his family are too perfect in the overachieving department to really be believable. That being said, it was an interesting, thoughtful novel about the effects of terrorism and violence on our society, and so is worth reading despite my issues. I recommend this book to anyone who’s in the mood for contemplative literary fiction.