Monday, March 2, 2009

Book Review - Saturday by Ian McEwan

The pursuit of morality in a Post-9/11 Britain

The beginning of Saturday was an exercise in sounding out medical vernacular, causing me to envision a prodigal episode of Sesame Street, whilst with the help of my Oxford, piecing together sentences with grave patience. This incidentally helped little with my inability to comprehend the complicated neurological procedures being described, but it did make for a quickened response time in my dictionary drilling skills.

Although the beginning was toilsome, I soon found myself captivated and carried away by McEwan’s infectious prose. His adept understanding of people and the inner-workings of casual - or painstaking - everyday happenings, and further to that, the feelings and thoughts associated with such occurrences, is like none other I’ve experienced. There were times in the novel when I felt myself blush at the brutally honest confessions that his protagonist was making to himself about his responses to some of life’s challenging situations, things that I might not even be inclined to admit to myself, let alone publish for the world’s perusal.

Through this one day in the life of Henry Perowne, a neurosurgeon in his late forties, we observe him teetering on the brink of midlife crisis, as he reflects on the anomaly that he imagines himself to be. We are privy to his onslaught of contradictory convictions relating to his car, his choice of careers, and to a quickly emerging and terrorizing international conflict with the Middle East. Through his ruminations, personal relationship with an Iraqi, and heated discussions with his daughter regarding the implications of an imposing war with Iraq, juxtaposed by the anti-war rally that is taking place on the neighbouring streets of London on this very day, we are met with a rhetorically balanced assessment of the issues surrounding this historical tragedy.

Steadily relevant to the last decade, reoccurring themes relating to violence, terror and invasion, would have made this novel hot topic for the water cooler, when it made its debut back in 2005. During these keen observations of Saturday, February 15th, 2003, McEwan, has led us on a journey that dares us to awaken ourselves to our consciousness, to be honest with ourselves, and to question our ability to take action, feel compassion and forgive.

This was my first encounter with McEwan, but now that I’m aware of his extraordinary command of the written word and his expert insight, I look forward to poring over everything he has to offer. I think my next selection shall be Atonement.

4.5/5 Snakes


  1. Is this text set in the first person?

  2. No, it's in third, but the writing is such that you make the same connection with the protagonist as you would if he was the narrator.

    It's quite remarkable, as the protagonist is observing society, himself and his experiences, processing and reflecting on all of this, while the narrator is the medium for the reader. You feel as though you are inside of the protagonists head essentially, and see everything and everyone through his viewpoint.

  3. Hi PeachyTO,
    If you're interested, my review of Saturday is here. I think Henry's honesty that you spoke of was necessary in order to have us accept this as an honest minute by minute play of events.

    Yesterday on my blog you asked to join the 2nd Canadian Book Challenge. I'd absolutely love to have you on board. Could you email me with links to those 9 books you said you read since the challenge started? jmutford [at] hotmail [dot]com. I'll add you ASAP.

  4. Great review...I loved this one also. Since I listened to this one rather than reading it, I found myself wishing that I had the book to read the words again. I found the writing beautiful. I read Atonement a couple of years ago and loved that one also...I will be watching for your review of that one.

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