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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Action-packed! Romantic! Gripping! . . . and introspective?
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...
Published on June 9 2006 by Stephen A. Haines

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Familiar ground..
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...
Published on April 8 2005


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Action-packed! Romantic! Gripping! . . . and introspective?, June 9 2006
By 
Stephen A. Haines (Ottawa, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Saturday (Hardcover)
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. The author effectively summarises the thug's character in a single sentence. Obviously educated, Baxter suffers from a genetic neurological disease, Huntington's chorea. Spotting this immediately, Henry diagnoses the ailment, offering therapy. The exchange leads to a string of multi-level encounters between Henry and Baxter. Henry's values are challenged in many ways by Baxter, whose own values must shift as they interact. The balance is exquisite as Henry and Baxter strive to maneuver each other through a spectrum of the two men's shifting needs. McEwan maintains this equilibrium with adroit finesse. In the hands of a lesser writer, it would be merely a clash of wills or a formulaic "good versus evil" scenario. McEwan effectively avoids such simplistic insults to the reader, and we can only applaud him for his skills.

Although shunted to justifiably minor roles, the remainder of Henry's family orbit about him, plainly visible. Each shines with their own level of brilliance. Henry's father in law, John Grammaticus, is a poet, thus Daisy's mentor. Theo, a teen-aged son, is caught up in blues music. In most fiction this would lead to friction, given the contrasting worlds, but father and son evince only mutual respect. Henry's mother, suffers advanced dementia, residing in a home. The great luminary in Henry's family is his wife Rosalind. A lawyer, she has her own professional realm. Henry loves her ardently. In yet another break with formula, Henry is given no amorous distractions neither among his hospital colleagues nor elsewhere. All the romance centres on Rosalind, with neither erosion nor regret. It's to McEwan's credit that he avoids this stereotype trap.

Rather unuexpectedly for fiction, Charles Darwin's famous aphorism, "There is a grandeur to this view of life" appears. It's a key statement in this story. Henry's view of life is grand, and based on solid reasoning. His scientific background forces that approach, and leaves more emotional responses to issues beyond his ken. Daisy never comprehends why Henry won't protest the crusade, but his knowledge exceeds hers and his values run deeper. Should he explain his position in better detail? Would she have accepted his argument? Growing up is hard to do, but watching it happen can be worse. Henry's "view of life" reaches beyond Daisy's, reinforcing the distress by her incomprehension.

With the many aspects of life this book offers, presented with vivid clarity and stirring insights, McEwan may well have launched a new "wave" in fiction. The reality underlying the story and its characters may provide an example for others to follow. They will, however, have to learn to work. McEwan spent two years learning what a neurosurgeon does. How many novelists will undertake, or endure, such an apprenticeship? This could have been a work of journalism. Instead, it's a brilliant story for all to enjoy. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
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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
This review is from: Saturday (Hardcover)
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
This review is from: Saturday (Hardcover)
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
This review is from: Saturday (Hardcover)
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
This review is from: Saturday (Hardcover)
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Testament to Brilliance, March 28 2005
By A Customer
This review is from: Saturday (Hardcover)
When you tie a book to a specific event (such as being a post 9/11 world) the author runs the risk of limiting the viewer's imagination. In the case of SATURDAY the post 9/11 choice works. It is a testament to the brilliance of Ian McEwan. He is a glorious writer with a true gift for storytelling. SATURDAY is an excellent book, at least as good as ATONEMENT. I'd compare it favorably to KITE RUNNER, MIDDLESEX, and MY FRACTURED LIFE.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant to the Core, April 5 2005
This review is from: Saturday (Hardcover)
"SATURDAY" at its core is about how we live today, in today's world, under today's political climate. This is no social commentary; "SATURDAY" is a novel - and a fine novel at that. Yet author Ian McEwan's keen wording and brilliant subtlety paint a world of muted brilliance, contrast and compliment. I am such a fan of well written books, it makes such a difference. "SATURDAY" is in the realm of "THE DA VINCI CODE", "MY FRACTURED LIFE" and even the "HARRY POTTER" series, not because of any similarities between the diversity of genres, but because of what they are at the core. "SATURDAY" is just a fabulously well written book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely Powerful!, March 15 2005
By A Customer
This review is from: Saturday (Hardcover)
SATURDAY is a very powerful manuscript. Not unlike predecessor ATONEMENT or contemporary greats MIDDLESEX, AMATEUR MARRIAGE, and MY FRACTURED LIFE, it gains power from the solemn inner voicing. In this case it is the story of London neurosurgeon Henry Perowne and how his life is forever changed in a series of events starting with witnessing a plane crashing and including neurosurgery, a car accident, a family reunion, and a confrontation with a criminal. Like MY FRACTURED LIFE and MIDDLESEX, a lot is thrown at you, but there is an order to the chaos. An amazing journey.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Nothing like the weekend, April 12 2005
This review is from: Saturday (Hardcover)
Very rarely does a book come along that grips the reader so that he/she can't put it down. The number of times this has happened can be counted on one hand. Certainly ATONEMENT comes to mind, as does the little gem THE CHILDREN'S CORNER by Jackson McCrae. But other than that, there isn't much. Now we have "Saturday." There are several moments in SATURDAY when the protagonist, Henry Perowne, a neurosurgeon, summons the image of a figure from a past or future century and speculates what that person would think about what Henry is observing at that moment. What would the architects who laid out London's streets and parks make of the rows of light emanating from the headlamps of the stalled cars? How would a surgeon from the Edwardian era react if he could step into Henry's operating room? Henry in the shower thinks of a time a century or so from now when the ability to command an instantaneous flow of warm water would seem to be an astonishing luxury. Throughout the day, Henry reflects on his position in the broad sweep of history. But it is also a day when Britain is contemplating a decision of that particular historical moment in February 2003, whether to join in America's invasion of Iraq. For on this particular Saturday, masses of people gather in London, just a few blocks from Henry's apartment, to protest the war. This 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. A little like life in general. A book for everyone- highly recommended. Also check out ATONEMENT and McCrae's CHILDREN'S CORNER for equally riveting reads full of great writing.
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4.0 out of 5 stars One great book!, June 29 2005
This review is from: Saturday (Hardcover)
In my quest for the next best thing, I ran across SATURDAY. While I hadn't read ATONEMENT, I was still cautiously optimistic, given the fact that sometimes the term "bestseller" doesn't always mean "good." But the sixth day of the week turned out to be quite fascinating. Well written and well thought out, along the same lines as McCrae's CHILDREN'S CORNER and full of inspirational insight (think GLASS CASTLE) this wonderful novel captivated my attention from page one until the end. Certainly one of the reasons for the success of this novel is the fact that it deals in some way or other with terrorism and the war in Iraq. But McEwan takes things farther than just that. It may only be one day in a man's life, but what happens internally to him is much, much more. Caution: This is not the book for you if you don't like to think!!!
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