Summary and book reviews of Saturday by Ian McEwan

Saturday

by Ian McEwan

Saturday
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2005, 304 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2006, 304 pages

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Book Summary

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.

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.

One

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. It's not clear to him when exactly he became conscious, nor does it seem relevant. He's never done such a thing before, but he isn't alarmed or even faintly surprised, for the movement is easy, and pleasurable in his limbs, and his back and legs feel unusually strong. He stands there, naked by the bed—he always sleeps naked—feeling his full height, aware of his wife's patient breathing and of the wintry bedroom air on his skin. That too is a pleasurable sensation. His bedside clock shows three forty. He has no idea what he's doing out of bed: he has no need to relieve himself, nor is he disturbed by a dream or some element of the day before, or even by the state of the world. It's as if, standing there in the darkness, he's materialised out of nothing, fully formed, ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
Ian McEwan's fiction never fails to make us think a little differently–about humanity, and storytelling, and the beliefs that comprise our myth and memory. In Saturday, he has created a storyline that brings to bear the full weight of these facets in the contemporary world.

With intense precision, McEwan draws us into the life of London neurosurgeon Henry Perowne. Taking place over a single day, Saturday follows Henry as he copes with everyday quandaries: insomnia, aging, the quest for a moment of leisure in the midst of so many obligations. But this particular day ripples with unexpected fears. Before the sun is up, he sees fire glowing from an airplane as it lumbers above the Thames. Newscasters deliver conflicting accounts ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly

If this novel is not as complex a work as McEwan's bestselling Atonement, it is nonetheless a wise and poignant portrait of the way we live now.

Booklist - Donna Seaman

McEwan is as provocative, transporting, and brilliant as ever as he considers both our vulnerability and our strength, particularly our ability to create sanctuary in a violent world.

Kirkus Reviews

A sort of middle-class humanist manifesto when you find yourself fortunate beyond all measure in a random universe, gratitude, generosity, and compassion are a decent response.

Caroline Moore, Sunday Telegraph

McEwan has found in Saturday the right form to showcase his dazzling talents.

Tim Adams, Observer

His gift of observation, wonderfully precise, now comes thick and fast. There is nothing in this novel that feels forced. The author's mature attention illuminates equally everything it falls on....this [is a] profound and urgent novel.

Lewis Jones, Telegraph

In Saturday he remains at the top of his game—assured, accomplished and ambitious... [Saturday] offers something transcendent, impossible to dissect.

Ruth Scurr, Times

...operating at the height of his formidable powers... Artistically, morally and politically, he excels.

Peter Kemp, Sunday Times

Where the literary careers of some of his contemporaries now look like gaudy wreckage, he has triumphantly developed into a writer of outstanding subtlety and substance... Written with superb exactness, complex, suspenseful, reflective and humane, this novel about an expert on the human brain by an expert on the human mind reinforces his status as the supreme novelist of his generation.

Colm Toibin, The Sunday Times

It's the good writing and the truthful and convincing way of rendering consciousness that makes Ian McEwan's Saturday so engrossing, keeping me awake like a mystery thriller.

James Urquhart, Independent

Refreshing and engrossing, Saturday has a pleasing intimacy... McEwan's superb novel amply demonstrates how good fiction, by dramatizing unwieldy and fraught ideas in a deeply personal narrative, can fashion the world into gobbets sometimes more digestible than factual reportage

Henry Hitchings, Financial Times

In Saturday he is at his best—thoughtful, eloquent, yet restrained. The novel has all the technical assurance of its predecessors, and suggests as well as a newly political sensibility and a seductive, Joycean attention to the textures of normality.

Daily Mail

Saturday is a brilliant novel about post 9/11 Britain, about the fragility of middle-class liberal values and assumptions, and the escalating vulnerability of our small, democratic island. It is McEwan writing on absoulute top form.

Anita Brookner, Spectator

An exemplary novel, engrossing and sustained. It is undoubtedly McEwan's best.

Reader Reviews

Velma

A Master of Writing
Masterful writing! I do not believe that I would have finished this book if it had been written by a less skilled writer. McEwan draws you into an ordinary day for an imaginary character and makes it real. This book would be a real joy for any ...   Read More

Leonard Browne

24 - London style
With every page read we are drawn deeper into the life and world of neurologist Henry Perowne, as Ian McEwan reveals as he penetrates the mind and inner workings of his main character. A highly successful surgeon, with a family he loves dearly, Henry...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Ian McEwan was born in 1948 in Aldershot, England, and now lives in London. His works have earned him worldwide critical acclaim, including being shortlisted for the Booker Prize for Fiction three times, and winning the award for Amsterdam in 1998.

Bibliography

  • First Love, Last Rites (stories) 1975
  • In Between the Sheets (stories) 1978
  • The Cement Garden, 1978
  • The Comfort of Strangers, 1981
  • The Imitation Game, 1981
  • Or Shall We Die?, 1983
  • The Ploughman's Lunch, 1985
  • Rose Blanche (children)
  • The Child in Time, 1987
  • The Innocent, 1989
  • Sour Sweet, 1989
  • Black Dogs, 1992
  • The Daydreamer, 1994 (children)
  • Enduring...

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