Can't decide if I am going to watch this dramatisation of Ian McEwan's 1987 novel.
I have read it twice, many years apart, and couldn't make my mind up about it on either occasion. I'm pretty sure I started a thread about it on the second attempt, but it is one of the many we lost when BGOClassic went to the wall.
Anyone else think they might watch it - either out of curiosity as to what sort of a fist they make of it, or just as a Benedict Cumberbatch fan?
One of the problems I have with Saturday (and this not the only one!) is that there are whole paragraphs (or maybe even pages) that are long passages consisting solely of detailed neurological conditions and surgical procedures.
I got the feeling he'd done lots of research with the quack chum he acknowledges, and was determined to fit it in regardless.
It was unnecessary padding, and in a short novel too. We soon know Henry is a renowned brain surgeon, so all the extra stuff didn't add anything. I'm no writer, but I think every scene should advance plot and / or character in some way. These did neither.
At the very least I found them distracting. Things are tootling along and then, here we go again.
McEwan is a master craftsman and I'm surprised. Should his editor be ashamed, or am I being too harsh?
I'm struggling to understand the significance of the poem Daisy 'reads'.
I think, perhaps, that some clue has been missed out when the abridgement for radio was made. Is this some sort of turning point in her relationship with her grandfather, recalling a time when they enjoyed poetry together and signalling a reconcilliation?
Why that poem?
Why should it have that effect on Baxter......It barely seems credible to me that 'poetry (as opposed to music) should have charms to soothe the savage breast'
What significance is there in the fact that Henry only vaguely recognises the poem,
I have hidden bits of my questions, in case there actually is significance in the choice of poem!
I seem to have a problem with my second 'spoiler alert'.
By Lizzy Siddal
Seeing as board members are mostly disappointed with this book, I wonder if the author's comments might shed enlightenment on his intent and make a difference to the reactions expressed to date.
1) McEwan wanted to change the emphasis of this tale. He wanted to write about a character, who is generally content with life, career and family. He also wanted to write about the enjoyments of Herry Perowne life: sport, music and food. Does the problem lie in the fact that "happiness writes white" i.e is very difficult to get down on paper in a form that keeps the reader interested?
2) McEwan is a human materialist (should that be a material humanist?) and Perowne's being a brain surgeon allows him to explore in detail his fascination with the question of how the sum total of a human being is more than the sum of its component parts. What determines consciousness? How makes us appreciate art and literature, etc? In fact, the climax of the book revolves around this seeming paradox? Perowne, a scientist with no appreciation for literature, is in mortal danger and, yet, his life is dependent on the criminal's artistic appreciation for one piece of poetry.
3) The depiction of the disintegration of Perowne's mother is taken from that of McEwan's own mother. In fact, the conversation Perowne has with his mother is taken verbatim from diaries McEwan kept at the time of his mother's illness. (The diaries were not written with a view to publishing, I hasten to add. McEwan only decided to include them midway through writing the novel.)
4) The editing process. This was my major concer nbecause I think McEwan has been served poorly by his editors on this work. So I asked him to describe the editing process. The answer was quite enlightening in that editing is done by his wife (a professional editor) and his friend, the poet. (The name escapes me at the moment, but it is the poet from whom McEwan borrowed Daisy's poem.)
So there we have it. Combine the lack of vigorous editing with the fact that McEwan quite openly states that he lost interest in writing fiction after the events of 9/11, and the odds are that the result would be poor.
It has been described as "important" and I suppose as a depiction of the Zeitgeist of Autumn 2003 it is just that. Is that enough for it to win major awards? Time will tell but I, for one, will be outraged, if it does.
Saturday, February 15, 2003. Henry Perowne 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. Unusually, he wakes before dawn, drawn to the window of his bedroom and filled with a growing unease. What troubles him as he looks out at the night sky is the state of the world - the impending war against Iraq, a gathering pessimism since 9/11, and a fear that his city, its openness and diversity, and his happy family life are under threat. Later, Perowne makes his way to his weekly squash game through London streets filled with hundreds of thousands of anti-war protestors. A minor car accident 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 and filled with Perowne's celebrations of life's pleasures - music, food, love, the exhilarations of sport and the satisfactions of exacting work - his family gathers for a reunion. But with the sudden appearance of Baxter, Perowne's earlier fears seem about to be realised.
Ian McEwan's last novel, Atonement, was hailed as a masterpiece all over the world. Saturday shares its confident, graceful prose and its remarkable perceptiveness, but is perhaps even more dramatically compelling, showing how life can change in an instant, for better or for worse. It is the work of a writer at the very height of his powers.
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