Friday, 20 November 2009

Saturday by Ian McEwan: Review

Image credit: Here

When I was searching for novels that fell into the "Post 9/11 Literature" category I was really excited to see that Saturday was considered to be one. Although I had at that stage only ever read one other of McEwan's novels, I knew that I would enjoy anything he had written. I was right.

Saturday is set in the course of a single day but this fact is easy to forget as this novel moves along at such a pace and so much happens that only once you've finished and are sitting back, reflecting that you think crikey - that was all just one day! The novel follows Henry Perowne, a well-known neurosurgeon living a life of affluence and contentment in Central London on a day that is anything but normal. A cascading series of events happen that culminate in a heart stopping climax that has the reader in the grip of a powerful suspense and intrigue. McEwan has painted these micro level events on the background of 2003, post 9/11 pre-Iraq London in what appears to me to be a reflection of the macro scale political happenings at the interpersonal level.

I'm loathed to give any further details away about the plot as part of the beauty of this novel is that these details surprise, delight and horrify. Knowing that they are coming won't do a potential reader any good. I read (luckily, after the fact) a review that was basically a plot summary that gave everything away which I thought was a horrible shame. I'm glad that I hadn't seen this before I read it.

This novel won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for McEwan in 2006, a highly prestigious award based out of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. I'm not surprised, it really is a masterpiece and a very thoughtful and clear-headed view of the world, post 9/11, unlike some other novels I have read which seem to grab desperately at the straws of patriotism and "us vs them" - all understandable reactions but not particularly helpful literary contributions.

I'd highly recommend this novel - especially to those who enjoy a good read that has intelligent content, a gripping story-line and characters with such depth that you feel like you actually know them.

Have you read this or any of McEwan's other books? Which have you enjoyed the most?

[Image of Ian McEwan credit: Here]


  1. Great review! Makes me want to read it for sure. The only one I read by him was Atonement which I liked. Have you read On Chesil Beach? I have that one on TBR to read too.

  2. Hey Jenny! Thanks! If you read it let me know what you think. I have read Chesil Beach - I picked it up on a whim at an airport bookshop and was hooked all the way home! Loved it. Atonement is on my "Want to read" list - along with anything else he's written!

  3. I loved Saturday, too! The scene right at the beginning where he is collecting his thoughts and quietly looking out the window is such a memorable scene for me - probably because it such a great juxtaposition with the chaos of the rest of the novel. McEwan is the man!

    Did you hear about the time in 2004 he was trying to go from Vancouver to Seattle for a signing, and was detained at the border for 36 hours? I can't find the exact quote, but I remember it being something along the lines of "Congratulations, United States. You've missed all the terrorists, but you've managed to nab yourself a British novelist."

  4. Hey Greg! Thanks for the comment. I loved that quote from McEwan - sharp!

    His writing is just so amazing - he makes that scene at the window an almost meditative experience to read. He doesn't write in a way that is overly frilly or extensively descriptive per se but his writing is beautiful. I can't quite pin down what it is about it.... I just know I love it.