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Saturday [Hardcover]

Ian McEwan
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Jan. 18 2005
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.

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From Publishers Weekly

In the predawn sky on a Saturday morning, London neurosurgeon Henry Perowne sees a plane with a wing afire streaking toward Heathrow. His first thought is terrorism--especially since this is the day of a public demonstration against the pending Iraq war. Eventually, danger to Perowne and his family will come from another source, but the plane, like the balloon in the first scene of Enduring Love, turns out to be a harbinger of a world forever changed. Meanwhile, the reader follows Perowne through his day, mainly via an interior monologue. His cerebral peregrination records, in turn, the meticulous details of brain surgery, a car accident followed by a confrontation with a hoodlum, a far-from-routine squash game, a visit to Perowne's mother in a nursing home and a family reunion. It is during the latter event, at the end of the day, that the ominous pall that has hovered over the narrative explodes into violence, and Perowne's sense that the world has become "a commuity of anxiety" plays out in suspense, delusion, heroism and reconciliation. The tension throughout the novel between science (Perowne's surgery) and art (his daughter is a poet; his son a musician) culminates in a synthesis of the two, and a grave, hopeful, meaningful, transcendent ending. 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. (Mar. 22)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

McEwan's key strategy is to pit reason against chaos and art against arbitrariness as he orchestrates thorny moral dilemmas and menacing situations. This is the structure underlying his Booker Prize-winning Amsterdam (1998), his best-selling Atonement 2002), and this tightly focused, high-performance, stream-of-consciousness drama about one day in the life of a sanguine London neurosurgeon. Henry Perowne is a good man. He loves to perform delicate operations while listening to classical music, and he adores his smart lawyer wife, adventurous poet daughter, and gentle musician son. For him this particular Saturday in February 2003 is a day full of promise, even though he's had a strange night and London is gearing up for an immense protest march against the impending war in Iraq, and even though he gets into a frightening altercation with a twitchy thug named Baxter, a confrontation he escapes by diagnosing his attacker's degenerative condition. It's been said that what makes literature so enthralling is its devotion to detail and its digressions. McEwan is a master of both, and consequently the reader reads this embroiling tale with two minds: one luxuriating in Henry's piquant ruminations on everything from the dysfunctions of the brain to evolution, Iraq, and society's retreat from "big ideas"; the other cued to suspense: how will Baxter exact his revenge? 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. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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Most helpful customer reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME TOP 500 REVIEWER
Taking us through one day of Henry Perowne's life must, in less than 300 pages, necessarily result in an "action packed" story. Opening with Henry's discovery of a fiery jet crossing the sky in the early hours, we follow his busy day of surgery, auto smash, family relations and musings on his life. McEwan's story is intense. It could be no other way, given the complexity of Henry's life. The author, however, keeps tight control over the narrative relieving the reader of "interpreting" events. This is far from "escapist" fiction, and the reader is kept attentive to meanings and values. McEwan contrives nothing and the reader will have few questions or worries about plausibility. A brilliant work about real people.

A serious professional, Henry's "relaxation" is an intense squash game with his anesthetist. He's approaching the big "five-oh", time when any reflective man will look back on his achievements and disappointments. Henry seems to have few of the latter. His daughter is a poet about to be published. Naturally, with her living in Paris, he worries about her private life. Laced with erotica, her poetry seems to impart much. Perhaps more than Henry wants to hear. Having a daughter is an effective way to age a man. Daisy's intelligent and deeply committed. On this Saturday, she's committed to blocking the Bush-Blair crusade in Iraq. A great march will take place, and Daisy expects her father to participate. His demurral shocks her and McEwan provides a charged confrontation - the "generation gap" is still with us.

Whatever Henry might have wished about attending the march is circumvented by a light road accident. A car brushes his, and he faces a trio of London street toughs. Their leader, "Baxter", is a complex character. His opening line to Henry is priceless.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Familiar ground.. April 8 2005
By A Customer
I have been a fan of Ian MacEwan since his first short story collections, First Love Last Rites and In Between the Sheets. After the excellent Atonement, which had some fun at the expense of modern writers who research everything to the nth degree and then regurgitate what they've learnt, regardless of relevance to the book, MacEwan falls into the same trap by swotting up on neurosurgery and then feeling compelled to let the reader know everything he has studied on the subject.
"Saturday Night" seems to be a repeat of the "Enduring Love" story, only less compelling. Both books feature an accident throwing characters, who otherwise would not meet, together and then exploring the unpleasant consequences which follow the chance encounter. Both also have a rational scientist type middle-aged man as the main character, confronted with emotions and situations outside the comfortably rational world of science. Both feature an irrational protagonist. Both central characters end up resolving the confrontation by realizing that rational science cannot provide a solution for everything.
While the book is extremely well written, MacEwan has also fallen into the trap of many contemporary authors (see Iain Banks) of trying to appear hip by mentioning current music etc - here we have references to Steve Earle's El Corazon, a girl sustaining a skull fracture falling out of a tree while watching Radiohead.
This is not his best book by any stretch, but compared to most modern fiction it is still pretty good.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A lot more than just 24 hours, this one is great March 30 2005
SATURDAY is a remarkable novel. It grips you in its symbolism, and I did enjoy it as much as ATONEMENT. It gives us a story of great love, happiness and the misery that can be interjected into our lives. What we come to expect as just another day turns into an event that is quite unexpected with reverberating consequences. This novel follows 24 hours in the life of neurosurgeon Dr. Henry Perowne, as he wakes up very early one Saturday morning, not long after 9/11. Henry is a happily married family man, and we follow him along in his day as he plays squash with a physician friend, visits his elderly mother who is suffering from dementia, and gets involved in an incident of road rage which will come back to haunt him before the end of the day. I'll leave it there, for you need to read this wonderful book to find out what happens. Suffice it to say that SATURDAY "moves" along at a faster clip than ATONEMENT, but is every bit as good. Would also recommend the highly popular BARK OF THE DOGWOOD for another great read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great new novel! March 1 2005
From the author of Atonement, comes this great new read. Saturday is filled with drama (more so than Atonement) but the writing is still first rate. With its memorable characters and first-rate pacing and storytelling, McEwan has given the world yet another great novel. If you enjoyed books such as McCrae's "The Children's Corner" or Seabold's "Lovely Bones" with their excellent pacing and style, the "Saturday" is a book for you.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Unlikely and unlikeable March 19 2005
Although well written, I found it hard to keep going with this book. There are numerous long descriptive sections (for example, pages and pages were taken up in describing a squash game) in which I lost interest. The high level of introspection was somewhat unconvincing. And the characters, apart from Baxter and Grammaticus, were dull and complacent. I found Perowne's children particularly unlikely and unlikeable.
I was interested to read that the central character, Perowne, preferred William James to his "fussy brother" Henry, because the latter would "run round a thing a dozen different ways than call it by its name". This was much the way I found this book. Good editing could perhaps reduce it to a short story of some merit, but as a full length novel, it is weak.
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars saturday
I did not like this man or his family..I got to the end by skipping pages & because I paid for it! He blamed himself for the accident? He hurt Baxters feelings? Grow a pair doc. Read more
Published on Jan. 2 2012 by zoda
5.0 out of 5 stars An incredible look into the post 9/11 psyche
Saturday, Ian McEwan's single-day probe into the psyche of Henry Perowne, a London neurosurgeon, is a brilliant work which explores the neurosis and fears of the post-9/11 era. Read more
Published on April 7 2010 by Garp
1.0 out of 5 stars Boring. Upper middle class British dribble.
One of those tedious "I can describe every detail" books with little or no basis in any sense of purpose or meaningful reality. Don't waste your time or money. Read more
Published on March 26 2010 by S. Penn
3.0 out of 5 stars Still love McEwan
Although this is not one of his best, this still was a classic engrossing Ian McEwan read.
Published on Nov. 19 2007 by Leah MacFarlane
5.0 out of 5 stars Remarkable, Memorable and Beyond Category
There are few novelists today who can write transformative fiction. McEwan is one of them.
This is a story well suited for its middle aged readership, exploring the joys and... Read more
Published on Sept. 18 2007 by Road King
3.0 out of 5 stars ok story
good details about medical aspects but the plot really isn't page turning
i somehow finished the book
i have not looked for another book by the author yet and don't think... Read more
Published on Sept. 15 2007 by sam
5.0 out of 5 stars Bowled over.
Having been disappointed by Atonement, I expected little from this book. I was surprised to find myself enthralled from the first word. Read more
Published on July 16 2007 by Samantha
4.0 out of 5 stars Not my usual cup-o-tea
SATURDAY is not something I would normally pick up. Being more prone to a bestseller, Oprah pick, or cult classic (you know the ones I'm talking about----DA VINCI by Brown,... Read more
Published on Feb. 26 2006 by Knotty Phelps
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought Provoking
This is a very interesting novel, compelling at times, that reminds us of the power each day of our lives can bring. Read more
Published on Jan. 24 2006 by Bea Zolis
1.0 out of 5 stars Could not finish this book
I very rarely abandon a book without finishing but I just could not get into this book. I did not care about the characters and found the story to be completely pointless. Read more
Published on Jan. 12 2006 by JBB
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