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Saturday by Ian McEwan
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Saturday (2005)

by Ian McEwan

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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9,360212548 (3.68)241
From the pen of a master-the #1 bestselling, Booker Prize-winning author of Atonement-comes an astonishing novel that captures the fine balance of happiness and the unforeseen threats that can destroy it. A brilliant, thrilling page-turner that will keep readers on the edge of their seats. Saturday is a masterful novel set within a single day in February 2003. Henry Perowne is a contented man-a successful neurosurgeon, happily married to a newspaper lawyer, and enjoying good relations with his children. Henry wakes to the comfort of his large home in central London on this, his day off. He is as at ease here as he is in the operating room. Outside the hospital, the world is not so easy or predictable. There is an impending war against Iraq, and a general darkening and gathering pessimism since the New York and Washington attacks two years before. On this particular Saturday morning, Perowne's day moves through the ordinary to the extraordinary. After an unusual sighting in the early morning sky, he makes his way to his regular squash game with his anaesthetist, trying to avoid the hundreds of thousands of marchers filling the streets of London, protesting against the war. A minor accident in his car brings him into a confrontation with a small-time thug. To Perowne's professional eye, something appears to be profoundly wrong with this young man, who in turn believes the surgeon has humiliated him-with savage consequences that will lead Henry Perowne to deploy all his skills to keep his family alive.… (more)
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» See also 241 mentions

English (187)  French (7)  Dutch (5)  German (3)  Spanish (2)  Norwegian (2)  Swedish (1)  Finnish (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  Catalan (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (211)
Showing 1-5 of 187 (next | show all)
This book more or less tries to prove, I guess, that by following the actions, thoughts and feelings of one person during one day you will know all about this person.
The person in question is Henry Perowne, a 48 years old neurosurgeon. The day: Saturday, the 15th of March 2003. Location: London.
Henry wakes up early, feeling elated. He sees a plane, burning, in the sky. He talks to his son. Makes love to his wife. Goes squashing with a friend. Gets involved in a minor car accident with a couple of rather aggressive young men. Goes shopping. Visits his mom who is an Alzheimer patient. Goes by a bar to hear his son play jazz music. Cooks dinner. Talks to his daughter. It's all pretty boring really, until the guys from the car accident come by to threaten Henry's family. The action doesn't last long though. Pretty soon all goes back to normal.
Ian McEwan is a good writer. I love his sentences and his observations about everyday life. But I learned that for me, that's not quite enough to enjoy a book. I need a story, so it seems. A plot. This book kind of lacked the plot. Also, Henry is just not a very interesting character and I didn't feel anything for (or against) him. Which kind of left me wondering why this book was written. ( )
  Tinwara | May 26, 2020 |
The main character is a neurosurgeon who grapples with consciousness as the firing of neurons and consciousness as all the beauty and pain he experiences every day. It is a sophisticated account of that play inside all our minds, an almost-reconciliation of that tug-of-war between our third-person biology and our first-person understanding of it. ( )
  jostie13 | May 14, 2020 |
Saturday is one day in the life of a successful London neurosurgeon. The novel opens with a sense of foreboding in a post-9/11 world. As Perowne moves through his day reflecting on his life and on the times, the suspense builds. His struggle to cope and his debate with himself over the approaching war in Iraq is real and is honest. I identified my own patterns of thought in his. The reader is effortlessly drawn into his life and his mental state and when the suspense finally breaks it is almost a relief. Although at one point I found myself almost wishing that it wouldn’t. When it is over, the sense of a profound change is palatable and reminded me of the feeling of seeing the first planes in the air after September 11th. ( )
  Seafox | Jul 24, 2019 |
A book that tries to describe a day in the life of its main character without being boring. It succeeds. ( )
  charlie68 | Feb 20, 2019 |
Oh my gawd, I finally suffered through this ‘best book of the year’. What am I not understanding???

The books summary speaks of what would have been an ordinary day for Henry Perowne, doing some errands and spending time with family. But a minor traffic incident leads to an unsettling confrontation that turns his day nightmarish. This incident is highlighted to be the crux of the story. The traffic incident itself is 20 pages, while the climax, i.e. the ‘nightmare’, is 25 pages. The books is 289 pages long. The rest are long drawn out babbling of his inner thoughts, his identity and his happiness, pandering of his surgical skills, the physicality of a racquetball game, his wife’s family and her alluring self, Daisy’s poetic talents, Theo’s natural blues nature, and an argument over being involved in the Iraq War or not. The best parts of the book are, per usual McEwan style, the relationships. In this case, my favorite is that of Henry’s mother, who is now lost in the “mental death” of dementia. His visit to her is poignant and painfully realistic.

I feel cheated by all the review quotes from book cover/back:

“Dazzling… Powerful…McEwan has shown how we… live today.” - New York Times
Seriously? How many families has a dad (Henry) who is a neurosurgeon, a mom (Rosalind) who is a lawyer, a daughter (Daisy) who is publishing a book of poems at age 22, a son (Theo) who is moving to NYC to headline a blues club at age 18, all of whom living in a seven thousand square feet Roman villa, east of London? The cranky, drunken father-in-law l lives in a French chateau, too. I am willing to concede that some issues transcend all social classes regardless of wealth and talent – cranky, drunken in-law, a mom with dementia.

“Finely wrought and shimmering with intelligence” – The New York Times Book Review
There’s a fine line between verbose vs. intelligence. McEwan goes into excessive descriptions of the aforementioned professions’ skill sets and racquetball, almost as though to show-off his ability to do research. It almost reads like he phoned-a-friend and wrote down everything he was told. He exhibited the same problem with “The Innocent”, rambling on about technical details.

“McEwan is a supremely gifted… Saturday is a tightly wound tour de force.” – Washington Post Book World
Tightly wound? I was so bored that I read three other books between the pages of this book.

“This extraordinary book is not a political novel. It is a novel about consciousness that illuminates the sources of politics.” – The Nation
This is a two-part irrelevant comment. First, despite McEwan choosing the “Saturday” being February 15 2003, the day of the demonstration against the 2003 Iraq invasion of Iraq in London, not even the book summary on the back cover suggest anything political. Second, several consciousness sources were identified – familial, professional, moral values, even sexual; to summarize and artificially push these towards politics is twisting the points. More accurately, there is a valid statement towards political engagement, to do so or not, but not necessarily politics itself.

“Saturday is an exemplary novel, engrossing and sustained. It is undoubtedly McEwan’s best.” – The Spectator
See above about being bored and read three other books. Engrossing? I think not.

“Read the last 100 pages at one sitting – the pace and the thrill allow it… Exhilarating.” – Los Angeles Times
I put up with this book awaiting the thrilling last 100 pages. Then I was deep within 100 pages, and still put it down for long stretches. Even the climax lasted only 25 pages within the 100. The resolution occurred amazingly quickly as though it’s time to call-it-a-day, quite literally! Saturday is done, over, finito! ( )
  varwenea | Sep 25, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 187 (next | show all)
L’acuité du regard et le sens du détail dévastateur. La profondeur de la réflexion politique autant que philosophique.
added by miniwark | editTélérama, Michel Abescat (Oct 14, 2006)
 
Why review a work of fiction for The Indexer? Chiefly because of the author’s use of several very different taxonomies covering neurosurgery, Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s chorea, blues music, squash and fish. The cumulative effect of this detail is to emphasize that, despite much knowledge, training, experience and wide interests, Perowne is powerless to control unexpected horrors. He uses his brain to heal other brains, but he cannot fathom the workings of the mind. The complex taxonomy of neurosurgery is used twice: at the opening of the book and again near the end. The author could have maintained the reader’s interest and suspense with more simple language, but his careful research has produced a precision that gives a far stronger sense of authenticity, not only to medical indexers who will have little trouble following the procedures. Again with Alzheimer’s disease: the detail contrasts with the lively mother and swimming champion whom Perowne remembers when he visits her in a nursing home. As for Huntington’s chorea, the taxonomy is essential to explain the unusual behaviour of the man who threatens him; he is not the average street thug. The squash game is, again, described moment by moment and gives insight to Perowne’s character: he is desperately keen to win, coming close to an acrimonious dispute with his anaesthetist with whom he has an ideal professional relationship. Even the fishmonger’s slab is described in taxonomic detail which leads to Perowne’s contemplation of moral matters such as whether fish feel pain.
 
Overall, however, Saturday has the feel of a neoliberal polemic gone badly wrong; if Tony Blair—who makes a fleeting personal appearance in the book, oozing insincerity—were to appoint a committee to produce a "novel for our time," the result would surely be something like this.
added by jburlinson | editNew York Review of Books, John Banville (pay site) (May 26, 2005)
 
[T]he lambent, stream-of-consciousness narrative that Mr. McEwan uses so adroitly in these pages. In fact, "Saturday" reads like an up-to-the-moment, post-9/11 variation on Woolf's classic 1925 novel "Mrs. Dalloway."
 
We have learned to expect the worst from Ian McEwan. Since his debut collection of stories, First Love, Last Rites, his fiction has always dwelt at the heart of places we hope never to find ourselves in: the vacancies left in lives by the kidnapped child or the lost lover; the mined no-man's-land that follows extreme violence or sexual obsession. His subject has always been damage and the way the darkest events in a life will drain the rest of love. For McEwan, happiness has rarely gone unpunished.
 

» Add other authors (36 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
McEwan, Ianprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Verhoef, RienTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wilby, JamesNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
For instance? Well, for instance, what it means to be a man. In a city. In a century. In transition. In a mass. Transformed by science. Under organised power. Subject to tremendous controls. Ina condition caused by mechanization. After the late failure of radical hopes. In a society that was no community and devalued the person. Owing to the multiplied power of numbers which made the self negligible. Which spent military billions against foreign enemies but would not pay for order at home. Which permitted savagery and barbarism in its own great cities. At the same time, the pressure of human millions who discovered what concerted efforts and thoughts can do. As megatons of water shape organisms on the ocean floor. As tides polish stones. As winds hollow cliffs. The beautiful supermachinery opening a new life innumerable mankind. Would you deny them the right to exist? Would you ask them to labor and go hungry while you yourself enjoyed old-fashioned Values? You-you yourself are a child of this mass and a brother to all the rest. Or else an ingrate, dilettante, idiot. There, Herzog, thought Herzog, since you ask for the instance, is the way it runs.
-- Herzog, Saul Bellow, 1964
Dedication
To Will and Greg McEwan
First words
Some hours before dawn Henry Perowne, a neurosurgeon, wakes to find himself already in motion, pushing back the covers from a sitting position, and then rising to his feet.
Quotations
Kdyby Perowne projevoval sklony k náboženství, k nadpřirozeným vysvětlením, mohl by si pohrávat s představou, že byl povolán: tím, že byl probuzen a s neobvykle povzbuzenou myslí bezdůvodně přistoupil k oknu, měl by vzít na vědomí jakýsi skrytý řád, vnější inteligenci, jež mu chce sdělit nebo ukázat něco významného. Jenže neklidné město si nespavce doslova pěstuje, samo o sobě je nespící entitou, jejíž komunikační dráty nikdy nepřestávají bzučet, a mezi tolika miliony se musejí najít lidé, kteří se dívají z okna v době, kdy by normálně spali. A nejsou to každou noc titíž lidé. Že by tím vyvoleným měl být on, a ne někdo jiný, je náhoda. Ve hře je prostý antropogenetický princip. Primitivní přemýšlení o nadpřirozenu má sklony přerůst v to, čemu jeho kolegové psychiatři říkají představa o vlastní důležitosti. Přehánění jedine, přetváření světa v souladu s vlastními potřebami, neschopnost přemýšlet o vlastní bezvýznamnosti. Z Henryho hlediska patří takové uvažování do spektra, na jehož vzdáleném konci se jako opuštěný chrám tyčí psychóza. (s. 21)
Takhle začíná onen dlouhý proces, v jehož průběhu se stáváte dítětem svého dítěte. A nakonec od něj jednoho dne uslyšíte třeba: "Tati, jestli zase začneš brečet, jde se okamžitě domů." (s. 33)
Jaké štěstí, že žena, kterou miluje, je zároveň jeho manželka. (s. 40)
Tenhle všední cyklus usínání a probouzení, ve tmě pod vlastní přikrývkou, s další bytostí, bledá, hebká, citlivá bradavka, přibližující se obličeje v rituálu lásky, nakrátko zabydlené ve věčné potřebe tepla, pohodlí, bezpečí, proplétání údů, aby bylo možno přitáhnout se k sobě blíž - prostá denní útěcha, snad až příliš samozřejmá, že se na ni dá za úsvitu snadno zapomenout. Zaznamenal to kdy nějaký básník? (s. 49)
Sex je jiný živel, láme čas a rozum, je biologický hyperprostor vzdálený od vědomé existence tak jako sny nebo jako voda od vzduchu. Jiný živel, jak říkávala jeho matka, jiný živel - když si zaplaveš, Henry, den se ti promění. A dnešek bude jistě v porovnání s ostatnými jedinečný. (s.50)
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