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Saturday


Bill
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I'm a big fan of Ian McEwan's novels, and this week sees the publication of his new novel Saturday, the follow-up to his best novel to date, Atonement. Here is a synopsis:

 

Saturday, February 15, 2003 . Oddly - he' s never done such a thing before - Henry Perowne wakes before dawn to find himself already in motion, drawn to the window of his bedroom. He is a contented man - a successful neurosurgeon, the devoted husband of Rosalind, a newspaper lawyer, and proud father of two grown-up children, one a promising poet, the other a talented blues musician. What troubles Perowne as he stands at his window is the state of the world - the impending war against Iraq, and a general darkening and gathering pessimism since the attacks on New York and Washington eighteen months before. Later during this particular Saturday morning, Perowne makes his way to his weekly 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 Baxter, a fidgety, aggressive, young man, on the edge of violence. To Perowne's professional eye, there appears to be something profoundly wrong with him.Towards the end of a day rich in incident, a Saturday filled with thoughts of war and poetry, of music, mortality and love, Baxter appears.

 

You can buy this book in hardback from Amazon for £10.79, which is 40% off, by clicking on one of these links:

 

<iframe width="300" height="300" scrolling="no" frameborder=0 src="http://rcm-uk.amazon.co.uk/e/cm?t=bookgrouponli-21&l=st1&search=ian%20mcewan%20saturday&mode=books-uk&p=12&o=2&f=ifr&bg1=C6E7DE&lt1=_blank"> <table border='0' cellpadding='0' cellspacing='0' width='300' height='300'><tr><td><A HREF='http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/redirect-home/bookgrouponli-21' target=_blank><img src="http://images-eu.amazon.com/images/G/02/associates/recommends/default_300x300.gif" width=300 height=300 border="0" access=regular></a></td></tr></table></iframe>

 

 

RRP: £17.99, <a href ="http://www.thebookplace.com/bookplace/spring2005.asp?CID=BGO733" TARGET="_blank">The Book Pl@ce</a> Price: £17.99

Just click on book jacket:

<a href="http://www.thebookplace.co.uk/bookplace/display.asp?ISB=0224072994&CID=BGO733"TARGET="_blank">

<IMG SRC="http://213.253.134.29/jackets/m/022/0224072994.jpg">

</a>

 

 

(It may be full price, but they are signed copies.)

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'm a little worried. I'm about a third of the way through and losing interest. Infact, it's the only title on my 'postponed' shelf whilst I read The Shadow of the Wind.

 

My verdict so far is that it is not worth £18.00. Wait for the paperback. It reminds me of Getting Rid of Mr Kitchen: a first-person sedantary faux-autobiographical follow up to a much better work.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Chris, if you're tempted to take it up again, the plot kicks in on p206.

 

OK, you're on. I'll pick it up now that I've just finished my last book. So far I'm loving his quiet descriptions of how wealthy he and his family is, and I like the blues playing son. But that squash game did go on.

 

Wish I hadn't read the Private Eye review first though.

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I was rather disappointed with this book. Maybe because it was hyped up a lot by the media and my expectations after reading Atonement.

 

The plot was minimal (and the book itself an expensive read at £18 for less than 300 pages), though I did like the bits about Perowne's family.

 

And I think he spent too much time on the research. He seemed to be throwing loads of medical jargon around just beacuse he spent all the time collecting the material and didn't want to lose it.

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I did say I would report back once I'd finished, which I did a couple of weeks ago. I won't say too much in case it wins the poll for the BGO Book Group, in which case I can join in with gusto then. I also note that it is currently sits on top of the hardback fiction charts.

 

It's a coincidence, or not, that I read two contemporary novels in quick succession that are both set during or (in this case) just before the recent war with Iraq, which both mixed the personal and the political, and featured characters trying to come to terms with their ambivalent feelings towards the novel (the other novel being Jonathan Coe's The Closed Circle).

 

I'm guessing that McEwan was playing out a lot of his guilt about his own ambivalent feelings towards Iraq and Blair, that he knew that on paper he should be against the war but that he was attracted to the idea of getting rid of a bloody tyrant. The novel dares to put a case for the war, as well as against, and encourages the reader to question his own views whether they were for or against. Although this didn't change my views, it was still good to question them. It is very important to have doubts - and the fact that Blair (to mention Dubya) outwardly had none was one of the most worrying parts of the war from a British point of view. The novel, by cleverly inventing a moment of doubt when Blair mistakes our 'hero' Henry Perowne for a painter in the Tate Modern, discusses this very question.

 

As I frivolously put it in an earlier post, the plot kicks in on page 206, when an ordinary day in the life of Henry Perowne turns into an extraordinary one. However, there is plenty to hold the interest before then - even the squash match that Chris so derided, but which I found fascinating.

 

By the way, if you paid £18 for it Chris, you obviously didn't buy it from one of the online booksellers via Book Group Online. I bought one of those large airport exclusive paperback versions at Heathrow for a tenner.

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MD&G, like you I'll leave further discussion of this book in case it's chosen as the next group read.

 

I didn't pay the full price, but did only get three quid off. Asda was the cheapest I saw (after I'd already bought it...) but with all the different prices there are these days, the RRP is the only one to quote.

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This is an example of style over substance. Unrelated scraps of fantasy, which the author attempts to enliven with some very tedious descriptions of his marital sex life plus with vast and pointless tracts about neurosurgery and the attributes of Mercedes SL 500s (totally wrong in the latter case, by the way), added up to a book that went nowhere and a very unsatisfactory read.The author is very keen to convince us of his mastery of the terminology of the operating theatre and spends several boring pages showing this off. Why? I found this book to be without merit - long winded, patronising, and plot and conclusion free. Don't waste your money!

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  • 2 weeks later...

I clicked on the link, but there is no indication on the web site that they are signed - opportunity for marketing lost or do you need to request one?

 

Intrigued by this book, not yet purchased but dipped into whenever i am in tesco (compulsively - i think if i visited every day this week i could read the whole thing!) Wierdest feeling being inside someones head.

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I am assured by the Managing Director of The Book Place, with whom I have been dealing, that all the copies of Saturday they are selling are signed. I agree that it would help if they flagged this up on the website.

 

BTW, Trudy, if you do buy Saturday, it is one of two books being discussed in the BGO Book Group: http://www.bookgrouponline.com/forum/forumdisplay.html?f=481

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Rescued Reply

 

Stewart 15th December 2005, 03:10 PM

 

Thumbs up

 

Ian McEwan’s Saturday is the story of Henry Perowne, a London based neurosurgeon, as he reflects on his life via the events that happen during his day off. Mixing organised chores with random incidents, the novel provides a great character study, one of a man coming to terms with his advancing years, although the book is low on action.

 

One morning, Perowne wakes early to witness an aviation accident, which troubles him throughout the day. As the day progresses he makes love to his wife, gets involved in a traffic accident, gets beat at squash, buys fish, visits his sick mother, listens to his son’s band perform, argues politics with his poetess daughter, and settles down for a family meal in the evening. While all this happens, the London march against the impending war in Iraq gathers momentum.

 

The characters are extremely well done with the exception, perhaps, of Daisy, Perowne’s daughter, who simply argues her anti-war stance and hides her own little secret. Daisy and Theo, his son, are, unlike their father, creative souls, and at the age where they are ready to flee the nest. Baxter, the novel’s main antagonist, is a young man rendered emotionally unstable by a degenerative brain disease, embarrassed by his condition yet unable to prevent its detriment to his life. And Perowne, through all this, meditates on everything, no matter how seemingly insignificant, and the author presents him as emotionally ambivalent man; a man slow to take sides, but always willing to consider the wider picture.

 

The plot is small but the emotional and philosophical conclusions drawn from each observation or incident serves to complete the picture of Henry Perowne’s day. In the evening, Baxter returns to cause havoc with the surgeon’s family, a scaled down metaphor for the impending invasion of Iraq being an example of how one event, no matter how minimal, can lead to big changes in one’s life.

 

Overall, McEwan has crafted a novel worthy of praise, but its meditative assault can be overwhelming at times; the use of neurosurgical terms is difficult for the layman, but our protagonist is a neurosurgeon so it’s more than appropriate. It’s certainly relevant to the current political climate, and probably serves as a slightly autobiographical account of McEwan’s feelings as his own family grows up and becomes independent. Saturday is worth the read, for an interesting study of making sense of the world, and of growing old; or, as Perowne says, Saturday will become Sunday.

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I picked this bbok up for pennies at my local school summer fair and begn reading it with some trepidation given the comments on here and given the fact that I had never read any other boooks by this author.

 

Despite the lack of plot which others seem to lament, I thought it was a beautifully written book, very much in the style of Mrs Dalloway. The whole point was that even the trivial was described in detail because it was describing just one day, and some of the turns of phrase I found brilliant.

 

Will have more to say about this once I have read the above link - have just driven 10 hours across Spain and am needing a little rest.

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I know there's been lots of hype about it, but is there anyone who has already read it who thinks that it is worth it?

undefinedI am a pretty big Ian McEwan fan but this is his worst book in my opinion. It is far too slow, self-indulgent and thoughtful. I do like a thoughtful book but I felt that this book lacked the usual plot drive that makes a reader keep on reading. I did read it to the end though and it got better but I much prefer all the other books of his that I have read. It didn't put me off him as an author but it might have done had it been the first Ian McEwan book I had ever read.

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Welcome to BGO, sands.

It's a bit slow on here today, but do come and say 'hello' in the Please Introduce Yourself thread in Central Library. As we come back from whatever we are doing out in the sunshine** we can welcome you properly there, and can answer any questions you might have about this site.

 

**There's lots of it in my garden today, so I hope everyone else is getting a share :)

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I probably said something similar earlier in the thread but as my 1st McEwan book I actually liked it. I didn't have a problem with the plot at all. It was just one day in a life, the rest of which was quite planned, structured and orderly for an utterly normal person who happened to have a good job with perfectly ordinary yet unusually talented children.

 

Many novels rely on a whole series of belief suspending events over a period of days / weeks / months which are far more difficult to come to terms with if one is going to analyse the plot closely.

 

Perrowne felt accessible as a character because he had normal attitudes and vulnerabilities but got dragged into a life-threatening situation through a perfectly ordinary set of events that anyone COULD find themselves in, all the more believable because they took place in a couple of blinks of the eye as opposed to over a long drawn out period.

 

Okay, operating on the bloke stretched it a bit it made a neat little circle that most novels attempt in one way or another. I could forgive that, no problem.

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I'm with you on this one RR. It was also my first McEwan and I was impressed.

The lack of plot did not bother me at all, in fact I quite liked it.

I thought the scene with his mother was wonderfully written, very real and very touching, as I am sure anyone who has had contact with elderley people with dimentia will testify.

The book has stayde with me for a few days now,which is always a good sign.

I will definitely read some more McEwan...

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OK, you're on. I'll pick it up now that I've just finished my last book. So far I'm loving his quiet descriptions of how wealthy he and his family is, and I like the blues playing son. But that squash game did go on.

 

Wish I hadn't read the Private Eye review first though.

This is my current read and I've just got past the squash game and I have to say I agree with you. I will carry on but am finding it a little too wordy and dragged out. Still as someone said in an earlier post I will perservere unti page 206.
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I liked Saturday; I would also go so far as to defend the fabled squash game as an extended metaphor for

the diplomacy AND the strikes (strokes/squash) of the Middle East War.

 

 

 

About Perowne's final surgery on Baxter: I can't tell if previous posters think it's less than credible that Perowne should operate on the man who attacked him and his family - and save B.'s life in the short term, or

if they're aware of the dark, almost savage irony of Henry's returning Baxter to living out the degenerative disease which he (Baxter) dreads more than anything else.

 

 

A question still hanging for me re: the characters' names: McEwan must surely have been aware of the parallel between Perowne and his wife, Rosalind, and the Berowne/Rosaline couple in Love's Labours Lost ... mustn't he?

 

Seems to be hot on the road to an important allusion of some kind - but not found by this dimming bulb reader.

 

A red herring?

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