Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Book Review - Saturday by Ian McEwan

I have a love/hate relationship with McEwan. I find the way he makes novels out of impossibly implausible situations and relationships both genius and repellent in equal measure. I despised Enduring Love and gave up with it halfway through as I found it utterly absurd, however, Atonement is one of my favourite books. Part of the reason Atonment works is that it is written through the eyes of a child; so misconstrued situations and events have an air of tangible reality that would otherwise be lacking.

Saturday has as its central protagonist Henry Perowne, a successful neurosurgeon, with the ubiquitous successful career, beautiful home and vaguely dysfunctional family. The novel is based on a 24 hour period in his life (a Saturday funnily enough, hence the title). His day starts in the early hours of the morning when he sees a plane on fire circling round the post office tower opposite his window. This precipitates all sorts of thoughts on societal and family conditions and the post 9/11 society. The war demonstrations are a clever device that keep the themes central whilst providing an interesting storyline that heightens pace as the story progresses.

Perowne progresses through his day; we see him trawling through the traffic, going to the fishmongers to buy food for the family's reunion in the evening (his daughter and father in law are coming over from France - and reuniting for the first time since an argument 3 years previously). A minor incident sees him meeting Baxter, a troubling man who Perowne can see has something very wrong with him. Baxter returns to the novel later, in what I found rather an unlikely scenario; however, it works because it retains the readers interest. The intricacy of the novel is startling and I was gripped. The only boring bit of the story for me was a description of a squash match and a rather pointless music rehearsal that just seemed a bit too much of an obvious device. That aside, a beautifully written and thought provoking novel. Recommended.

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