Saturday

Paperback | January 10, 2006

byIan Mcewan

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From the pen of a master — the #1 bestselling, Booker Prize–winning author of Atonement — comes an astonishing novel that captures the fine balance of happiness and the unforeseen threats that can destroy it. A brilliant, thrilling page-turner that will keep readers on the edge of their seats.

Saturday is a masterful novel set within a single day in February 2003. Henry Perowne is a contented man — a successful neurosurgeon, happily married to a newspaper lawyer, and enjoying good relations with his children. Henry wakes to the comfort of his large home in central London on this, his day off. He is as at ease here as he is in the operating room. Outside the hospital, the world is not so easy or predictable. There is an impending war against Iraq, and a general darkening and gathering pessimism since the New York and Washington attacks two years before.

On this particular Saturday morning, Perowne’s day moves through the ordinary to the extraordinary. After an unusual sighting in the early morning sky, he makes his way to his regular 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 a small-time thug. To Perowne’s professional eye, something appears to be profoundly wrong with this young man, who in turn believes the surgeon has humiliated him — with savage consequences that will lead Henry Perowne to deploy all his skills to keep his family alive.


From the Hardcover edition.

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From the Publisher

From the pen of a master — the #1 bestselling, Booker Prize–winning author of Atonement — comes an astonishing novel that captures the fine balance of happiness and the unforeseen threats that can destroy it. A brilliant, thrilling page-turner that will keep readers on the edge of their seats.Saturday is a masterful novel set within a single day in February 2003. Henry Perowne is a contented man —...

Ian McEwan is the author of nine novels, including Amsterdam, for which he won the Booker Prize in 1998, and of Atonement, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction, and the WHSmith Literary Award.From the Hardcover edition.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:288 pages, 7.95 × 5.16 × 0.73 inPublished:January 10, 2006Publisher:Knopf CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0676977626

ISBN - 13:9780676977622

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Reviews

Rated 4 out of 5 by from February 15, 2003 I'm not sure how I feel about Saturday. On one hand, I have to express my admiration for McEwan's prose that is manifest in all of his fiction; yet, I can't help feeling that McEwan was far too eager to show his technological knowledge. Often the otherwise beautiful, careful dissection of neurosurgeon Henry Perowne's life diverges into neurological jargon that I believe could have been left out. One of John Banville's problems with Saturday—which he candidly expressed in his scathing review in the New York Times—was that Henry Perowne is an unrealistic character who leads an unrealistic life. However, I disagree with Banville: Perowne does lead what I would say is an "exceptional" life, not entirely unbelievable. Also, I can't help but see McEwan—after watching and reading interviews, as well as in general being informed about the author—in Perowne as a character; while I wouldn't say they are parallel (for example, Perowne is a staunch critic of literature), but there are some similarities, and, ultimately, I enjoyed Perowne as a character. Some scenes in this book I loved—such as the tension between Daisy and John Grammaticus in France—some I did not. I appreciated the thematic value of the search for happiness in a postmodern world, and the interesting ambiguous meditations on the Iraq war. I liked Saturday; I would definitely read it again. While it isn't my favourite McEwan, the novel itself is an experience that I do recommend.
Date published: 2010-12-22
Rated 3 out of 5 by from A very long day... I am not a McEwan newbie. Saturday is the 4th of his books I have read and, thus far, my least favourite. But even though I didn't love this book, I would still have to praise McEwan's ability to write. If I have a criticism of Saturday it's that it's over-written. That may be the fault of McEwan's decision to set the novel in one day in the life of neurosurgeon, Henry Perowne. Saturday is Henry's favourite day. He plays squash, does some shopping and on this particular Saturday- anticipates the homecoming of his daughter, Daisy. But, of course, this Saturday isn't going to be like all the others. He awakens in the middle of the night and watches from his bedroom window as a plane- streaming fire, cuts across the sky to (crash, he assumes) land at Heathrow. This event wouldn't be the cause of so much concern if this story wasn't set post 9/11 and on the very day when hundreds of thousands on people are set to march in London's streets to protest the war against Iraq. As Henry sets out to accomplish his long list of things to do before his daughter arrives he gets into a minor fender bender that will propel (although not quickly) the book towards its denouement. Whether or not you find the ending, or the book for that matter, satisfying, will depend on how much you care for Henry and the minutia of his Saturday.
Date published: 2007-11-05
Rated 3 out of 5 by from The length of a day... McEwan's book makes one consider how much can happen in the span of a day, how our lives are tenuously interconnected and how the macrocosm ripples down into the microcosm of individual lives. Although the book had moments where I found it difficult to suspend my disbelief, overall I felt McEwan did an admirable job of allowing the reader to enter the life and 'mind' of a neurosurgeon on a not-so-usual Saturday.
Date published: 2006-06-08
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Saturday felt like a year ... This was a bookclub selection that I would otherwise have not picked up. The book had an extremely slow pace, and but for an interesting and unexpected plot twist nearing the end, was dull and uninspiring. Unfortunately, I wouldn't recommend this one.
Date published: 2006-05-25
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Rubbish Pedestrian, preachy, dull and utterly disappointing- IF you can even finish it. Ian Mcewan has much better, even brilliant previousl novels. Stop buying books just because they appear on lists, people, and trust your bookseller!
Date published: 2006-04-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic! This is one of those books where you step back and say, Wow! I'm glad I read that since it is a superb writer at his best! Insightful, intelligent and thought provoking, this book flies by.
Date published: 2006-01-24

Extra Content

Read from the Book

OneSome hours before dawn Henry Perowne, a neurosurgeon, wakes to find himself already in motion, pushing back the covers from a sitting position, and then rising to his feet. It’s not clear to him when exactly he became conscious, nor does it seem relevant. He’s never done such a thing before, but he isn’t alarmed or even faintly surprised, for the movement is easy, and pleasurable in his limbs, and his back and legs feel unusually strong. He stands there, naked by the bed – he always sleeps naked – feeling his full height, aware of his wife’s patient breathing and of the wintry bedroom air on his skin. That too is a pleasurable sensation. His bedside clock shows three forty. He has no idea what he’s doing out of bed: he has no need to relieve himself, nor is he disturbed by a dream or some element of the day before, or even by the state of the world. It’s as if, standing there in the darkness, he’s materialised out of nothing, fully formed, unencumbered. He doesn’t feel tired, despite the hour or his recent labours, nor is his conscience troubled by any recent case. In fact, he’s alert and empty-headed and inexplicably elated. With no decision made, no motivation at all, he begins to move towards the nearest of the three bedroom windows and experiences such ease and lightness in his tread that he suspects at once he’s dreaming or sleepwalking. If it is the case, he’ll be disappointed. Dreams don’t interest him; that this should be real is a richer possibility. And he’s entirely himself, he is certain of it, and he knows that sleep is behind him: to know the difference between it and waking, to know the boundaries, is the essence of sanity.The bedroom is large and uncluttered. As he glides across it with almost comic facility, the prospect of the experience ending saddens him briefly, then the thought is gone. He is by the centre window, pulling back the tall folding wooden shutters with care so as not to wake Rosalind. In this he’s selfish as well as solicitous. He doesn’t wish to be asked what he’s about – what answer could he give, and why relinquish this moment in the attempt? He opens the second shutter, letting it concertina into the casement, and quietly raises the sash window. It is many feet taller than him, but it slides easily upwards, hoisted by its concealed lead counterweight. His skin tightens as the February air pours in around him, but he isn’t troubled by the cold. From the second floor he faces the night, the city in its icy white light, the skeletal trees in the square, and thirty feet below, the black arrowhead railings like a row of spears. There’s a degree or two of frost and the air is clear. The streetlamp glare hasn’t quite obliterated all the stars; above the Regency façade on the other side of the square hang remnants of constellations in the southern sky. That particular façade is a reconstruction, a pastiche – wartime Fitzrovia took some hits from the Luftwaffe – and right behind is the Post Office Tower, municipal and seedy by day, but at night, half-concealed and decently illuminated, a valiant memorial to more optimistic days.And now, what days are these? Baffled and fearful, he mostly thinks when he takes time from his weekly round to consider. But he doesn’t feel that now. He leans forwards, pressing his weight onto his palms against the sill, exulting in the emptiness and clarity of the scene. His vision – always good – seems to have sharpened. He sees the paving stone mica glistening in the pedestrianised square, pigeon excrement hardened by distance and cold into something almost beautiful, like a scattering of snow. He likes the symmetry of black cast-iron posts and their even darker shadows, and the lattice of cobbled gutters. The overfull litter baskets suggest abundance rather than squalor; the vacant benches set around the circular gardens look benignly expectant of their daily traffic – cheerful lunchtime office crowds, the solemn, studious boys from the Indian hostel, lovers in quiet raptures or crisis, the crepuscular drug dealers, the ruined old lady with her wild, haunting calls. Go away! she’ll shout for hours at a time, and squawk harshly, sounding like some marsh bird or zoo creature.Standing here, as immune to the cold as a marble statue, gazing towards Charlotte Street, towards a foreshortened jumble of façades, scaffolding and pitched roofs, Henry thinks the city is a success, a brilliant invention, a biological masterpiece – millions teeming around the accumulated and layered achievements of the centuries, as though around a coral reef, sleeping, working, entertaining themselves, harmonious for the most part, nearly everyone wanting it to work. And the Perownes’ own corner, a triumph of congruent proportion; the perfect square laid out by Robert Adam enclosing a perfect circle of garden – an eighteenth-century dream bathed and embraced by modernity, by street light from above, and from below by fibre-optic cables, and cool fresh water coursing down pipes, and sewage borne away in an instant of forgetting.An habitual observer of his own moods, he wonders about this sustained, distorting euphoria. Perhaps down at the molecular level there’s been a chemical accident while he slept – something like a spilled tray of drinks, prompting dopamine-like receptors to initiate a kindly cascade of intracellular events; or it’s the prospect of a Saturday, or the paradoxical consequence of extreme tiredness. It’s true, he finished the week in a state of unusual depletion. He came home to an empty house, and lay in the bath with a book, content to be talking to no one. It was his literate, too literate daughter Daisy who sent the biography of Darwin which in turn has something to do with a Conrad novel she wants him to read and which he has yet to start – seafaring, however morally fraught, doesn’t much interest him. For some years now she’s been addressing what she believes is his astounding ignorance, guiding his literary education, scolding him for poor taste and insensitivity. She has a point – straight from school to medical school to the slavish hours of a junior doctor, then the total absorption of neurosurgery training spliced with committed fatherhood – for fifteen years he barely touched a non-medical book at all. On the other hand, he thinks he’s seen enough death, fear, courage and suffering to supply half a dozen literatures. Still, he submits to her reading lists – they’re his means of remaining in touch as she grows away from her family into unknowable womanhood in a suburb of Paris; tonight she’ll be home for the first time in six months – another cause for euphoria.From the Hardcover edition.

Bookclub Guide

1. Saturday’s epigraph comes from Nobel Prize winner Saul Bellow, whose novel Herzog features an academic facing the shortcomings of his life. The novel was published in 1964; how might the history of the early Sixties have influenced Bellow’s perspective? Forty years later, how does Ian McEwan’s protagonist embody current events?2. At the end of Saturday’s first paragraph, as Henry wakes too early, McEwan writes, “And he’s entirely himself, he is certain of it, and he knows that sleep is behind him: to know the difference between it and waking, to know the boundaries, is the essence of sanity.” To what else does Henry awaken as the novel progresses? In the book and in the world, who remains asleep (and unaware of their slumber)?3. When Henry hears about the cargo plane’s safe landing, McEwan observes, “Schrödinger’s cat was alive after all.” How does Schrödinger’s thought-experiment, allowing two outcomes to co-exist during a period of uncertainty, apply to Henry’s daily life? How does it express the nature of human thought during times of anxiety?4. Was the collision between Henry’s car and Baxter’s an accident? What visual cues (the type of car Henry associates with criminals, the “scarecrow” clothes that make him look like something other than a doctor) stoke the fire? What class conflicts are projected as the men argue? What determines who has more power in that situation?5. Discuss the irony of the novel’s title. Henry intended to spend the day relaxing; does the modern world allow for any true respite from worry?6. In your opinion, what accounts for the bliss between Henry and his wife? When he met her, did her vulnerability (through illness) feed their attraction, or was it merely a means for them to find one another? What accounts for Henry’s uneasy relationship with his father-in-law?7. In researching Saturday, Ian McEwan spent months observing brain surgery. What parallels exist between a writer’s craft and a surgeon’s? What is the effect of McEwan’s decision to cast Henry in the specialty of neurosurgery (as opposed to thoracic or orthopedic surgery, for example)? How does Henry’s ease with medical terminology, but discomfort with the vocabulary of literature, influence your reading experience?8. Jay Strauss moved to the U.K. in part because of his enthusiasm for socialized medicine. How would you describe the healthcare system presented in the novel?9. Do you think Jay personifies most or few Americans? Is he more competitive than Henry?10. As Henry watches his mother’s dementia worsen, he labels the physiological reasons for her decline. Does his familiarity with science ease or aggravate the sadness of losing her?11. One of Henry’s last errands in the novel is to listen to attend a performance by Theo’s band. What does blues music, along with its American flavor, mean to Theo? Does Henry experience this art differently from the way he hears Daisy’s work?12. Why was Baxter’s invasion of Henry’s house essential to this novel? In what way can this scene be explored as a metaphor for politics, war, even global economics? Why was it also necessary for Henry’s security system to be proven ineffective that night?13. Using an anthology or website, read Matthew Arnold’s nineteenth-century masterwork "Dover Beach" in its entirety. What caused it to resonate with Baxter’s memories? Can you think of any contemporary poems in free verse that would have served Daisy’s purpose so well?14. What saves Henry’s family from Baxter and his cohorts: Poetry? Pregnancy? Bravery? Intelligence? Luck? Divine intervention? Baxter’s illness? How would you have reacted in a similar situation?15. As Henry returns to the hospital that night, he realizes this is where he feels most comfortable – even more so than when he’s in the world of alleged leisure. Earlier in the novel, McEwan describes how orderly Henry’s mother was; Henry wishes he had just once invited her to the operating theater. Is this sense of order and belonging innate to Henry’s profession, or is it something Henry has ascribed to it? In what locale do you personally feel you’re at the top of your game? Is this the same locale that puts you at ease?16. Why is Henry willing to perform surgery on Baxter? What keeps Henry from craving the revenge Rosalind anticipated? Would you be able to drop the charges, as Henry hopes to do? How do you respond to McEwan’s questions: "Is this forgiveness? . . . Or is [Henry] the one seeking forgiveness?"17. Can Henry’s surgery on Baxter be called revenge? Is his probing of Baxter’s brain a violation? Or, is Henry’s magnanimous act a victory of enlightened liberalism over Baxter’s primal power politics?18. During Henry’s reunion with Daisy, they waver between words of affection and a rapid-fire ideological debate about Iraq. How would such a debate have unfolded in your household?19. Four generations are presented in Saturday, including Daisy’s child. What does each generation bestow, or hope to bestow, upon the next? What spurred such an exceptional level of accomplishment among the members of the Perowne family?20. Discuss the element of storytelling itself in Saturday. Do the stories disseminated within this novel – by the broadcasters, the protesters, the lawless, the keepers of family legacy – all describe the same reality? Who or what has the power to influence what we believe? What literary devices did Ian McEwan use to evoke realism in this novel?21. Examining the works of Ian McEwan as a continuum, how does Saturday enrich the portrait of life he has been crafting throughout his career?