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Saturday - Medical matters (SPOILER)

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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?

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I know what you mean - I liked it as I find this sort of detail quite useful in terms of learning about stuff I would never bother to find out about.


But I sort of assumed it was there to counterpoint the fact that at work and at home Perowne had everything under control, the operating theatre, his position as a consultant, his ability to defeat death etc versus the absolute lack of control when it came to Baxter.


Initially I was suprised at the level of detail and then there are a few pages where he is talking about his daughters views on literature 'If as Daisy said, the genius was in the detail ...............These were the products of steady, workmanlike accumulation' when he is thinking about Madam Bovary. I wondered if he was being ironic?


I thought the ending happened fast with everything tidied up to neatly. Loved the Blair story.


I really enjoyed reading it though. In fact was reading it in a Starbucks and forgot to get back to the meter in time. Therefore think it was my most expensive book of the year

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I think you've got it belinda, he's comfortable talking about his working life but not about the real world. I wonder if he reverts back to his medico-speak especially at times of distress. Perowne did do an on-the-spot neuro-analysis of Baxter the first they met, but I never noticed when else he "showed off." Maybe they were at other stressful points in the day.

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I haven't been reading this book, but happened to catch last night's episode on 'Book at Bedtime' (Radio4), so went on line to listen to the previous two episodes. There was none of that medical padding doing it that way, just the bare bones of the plot!


I felt obliged to call into a bookshop today for a squint at the real thing, to see what you are on about. I only flicked through the first chapter, but felt that I had a better idea of the kind of man Henry Perowne is supposed to be, by the detailed descriptions of his work. But perhaps it gets a bit much after a few chapters?


What did irritate in the abridged reading last night, was the alternating use of his first and second name. As I was listening to the third episode without hearing it from the beginning I thought at first there were two of him, or that he had a split personality!


Does this stand out as much when reading it, and is there some reason for it within the plot?

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The switching back and forth between his first and last names is just as annoying in the book.


I have never read anything by Ian McEwan before so don't know if the excessive detail is a regular habit of his or not. Was it really necessary in Chapter Two to give us the details of every serve and volley and footstroke of the squash game? He seems intent on beating every scene to death (reminds me of Hemingway). Where is a good editor when you need one? :confused:


Four pages into Chapter Two there is a passage where he is thinking about reading a poem his daughter recommended and he thinks . . .'but poor Maisie soon vanished behind a cloud of words, and at page forty-eight Perowne . . . fell away exhausted.' And I could only think 'Yeah, I can relate to that feeling right now!'


Haven't finished the book yet so I keep hoping it gets better and am determined to slog on. But I can't help thinking that I wouldn't want this guy as MY brain surgeon when he can't even keep his concentration on anything for five minutes at a time!

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Last night's 'Book at Bedtime' episode was devoted to the squash game, including (presumably most, if not all) the detail of moves and strokes. Not being sporty, I personally would have preferred the operating theatre in, and the squash court out, of the abridgement!!


I did feel that the description of the 3rd game had a very surgical aspect to it, in particular the reference to 'a standard procedure', as Perowne was planning his moves. I think that the precise and detailed nature of his work, is an important indication of his character, and maybe the listeners will not get as good a sense of that as the readers will.


Maybe I.M. felt that it was necessary to go in depth into events in the operating theatre to illustrate just how much control Perowne needs to have in his professional life in order to understand his feelings/reactions when he finds himself unable to control the things that I presume are going to continue happening on this particular Saturday.


Re: your final comment ChrisG., Maybe it is because he is a good brain surgeon, and has such fierce concentration in the theatre that he is all over the place in a freer environment?


I'm going to have to buy this when it's out in paperback, and read it properly!

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I am finding it really fascinating being part of Book Group Online. Normally I just read something and think 'good, bad or indifferent' and then move onto the next thing. No-one else in my house reads much.


Therefore I have been thinking much more about this book and the plot as a result of all your comments.


So - here goes when thinking about this book and the characterisation some more have decided that Perowne is unbelievably complacent and self-satisfied with himself and his wife and sees them as extensions of himself. H really does see himself as a god - he sees operating on Baxter as a way of gaining control again - and of having the power of life or death over him.


Also thinking about the name moving backwards and forwards, there may be more here than meets the eye. Megustaleer had me thinking about this with her comments.


If you think about it, per is a prefix in Latin for through, and, then we have own. Maybe the moving backwards and forwards with the name is 'through ownership' - Per-own-ne. Maybe getting a little carried away here.

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Have finished the book now and one thing that stood out was the fact that many references were made to the security arrangements in the house. Reference to the locks on the front door, the alarm system and the two monitored 'panic' buttons - one by the front door and one upstairs. But it seems like they are a talisman - as long as they are there, installed, Perowne seems to (and so does his family) not feel the need to use them properly. It is as if the fact that they are there is supposed to be protection enough and a kind of 'magic' that means nothing bad will happen. When something does, I found it interesting that all the things that Perowne ran through mentally as possibly useful did not include trying to use one of the panic buttons (just as Rosalind didn't think to use it when she was followed into the house).


I believe this ties in with the whole complacency and smugness feeling that is sensed about Perowne's feelings about his life.

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I know that I'm not seeing the full picture, but the more I hear of the parts of this book chosen for 'Book at Bedtime' readings the more it seems to me to be about control.

The last two episodes have been about his father-in-law, who loses the ability to control a critical tongue through drink, and his mother. Lily, who is losing control over her thought processes through multiple strokes.


An unwelcome look into the future for Henry?


(The visit to Lily was very acutely observed, it was just like being at work!)

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