Saturday – Ian McEwan

Book #2

Reviewer: Jon Day 

Well, would you look at this… both Book #1 and now Book #2 from the original list have been reviewed. In doing so we would like to introduce you to our newest reviewer Jon, who blogs over at The Mirror Man, views from a hospital bed. If you like poetry, then you should definitely visit with him. Thanks for joining us Jon.


The books which Ian McEwan writes seem to share two features. The first is about how single moments can change things for ever, and the second is about the morality of choices. His novel, Saturday, is no exception. The events in the novel concern a single day and its consequences and there is more than one moral lesson approached in the text.
The protagonist is a man named Henry Perowne, a neurosurgeon. Don’t be fooled into thinking such a man has little to do with your life for his thoughts and conversations address issues which affect all of us. And that is the magic of this novel. Everything is relevant to the reader’s life. The plot, great though it is, is secondary, to the soul of the book. McEwan’s use of language is exemplary. Ease of readability runs concurrent with intelligent prose. The book is set in London, one Saturday shortly before the second Gulf war and the invasion of Iraq. McEwan is able to capture both the anti-war feeling and the fear of terrorism prevalent in the public at the time. Throughout the novel he also illustrates the motives behind young people’s apparent disinterest in the bigger issues of the day. As one character notes;

“When we go on about the big things, the political situation, global warming, world poverty, it all looks really terrible, with nothing getting better, nothing to look forward to. But when I think small, closer in—you know, a girl I’ve just met, or this song we’re going to do with Chas, or snowboarding next month, then it looks great. So this is going to be my motto—think small.”

The novel is full of small incidents which build tension and drama, fast and thick observation of all sorts of things. Perowne reveals himself an intelligent man, who counts his blessings over and over. And on this innocuous Saturday we know all is not as it should be. There are portents of doom and we are led to a finale in which the protagonist’s level headedness is tested against the fickleness of life. Our comfort is challenged as McEwan asks us how far civilised men will go to protect what they hold dear. This is a thoughtful and well considered book and I am glad I read it.


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