Sunday, November 23, 2008

"Saturday" by Ian McEwan


I have been slogging through this book now for about a week, which is an eternity for me, especially for only a 290 page book. It was the many rave reviews and recommendations of this book that kept me going, honestly. I finally finished it on our five hour drive up to St. George Island, where I will be for the next week. I have visions of getting alot of reading done here, but we shall see!
Ian McEwan is probably best known for his novel "Atonement", is recognized as one of today's great masters of literature, setting the standards against which all others are compared. In "Saturday", we follow a middle-aged neurosurgeon, Harry Perowne, for one day in his life. Harry wakes up prematurely on this day, with a feeling of contentment and euphoria. If you are familiar with McEwan's work, you know this isn't going to last. Harry proceeds to move through his day, some of it routine and some not (won't give anything away). About two-thirds through the book, around Harry's dinnertime, an earlier situation comes back to haunt him, and blows his life wide open. Instead of letting it defeat him, Harry embraces the opportunity to make things right, and ends his day in a way very similar to the way he started it, coming full circle. Through the book, Harry struggles with or is confronted with issues that are all on our top ten...our aging aching bones, fear of terrorism, the war in Iraq, our children growing up and having their own lives, our aging and infirm parents, keeping peace and harmony in our family. He covers it all over a span of a day.
Like I said, I REALLY had a hard time getting into this book...most of Harry's life is quite the same as ours (playing squash, visiting his mother, shopping at the fishmonger) and lacked action. I had to self-reflect. Am I so superficial that I need constant action in a book? I am reading too much murder and crime novels and need pillaging and mayhem to be entertained? Jeez I hope not. I need to work on this. At the same time, it is wondrous to read McEwan's prose. It is rich, complex and really brings a character's inner soul to life. About two-thirds through the book, it really picked up and I was able to finish it easily. And in hindsight, I did enjoy it. I'm not sure I would recommend it as an easy read, but it definitely is worth the effort.

7 comments:

Book Fiend said...

I've been meaning to get to this book for awhile now! I totally understand how you feel about reading a book that doesn't have a murderer in it...especially after reading The Likeness, I really miss that feeling of being gripped by the plot. I am most definitely getting spoiled by mysteries. But I don't care! =) Have you read Atonement? How does it compare to Saturday? Would you recommend one over the other?

Sandy Nawrot said...

I have not read Atonement. I made the mistake of seeing the movie first, and that usually does it for me. (I prefer to see the movie in my mind first!) I suppose I should...I am drowning in a sea of books I need to read!

C. B. James said...

Happy Thanksgiving. I had much the same problem with Saturday that you did. But my reaction to the last 1/3 was the opposite of yours.

It seemed contrived to me. But I did like the book overall.

Sandy Nawrot said...

You know, I guess I would agree it was contrived...once it started going down the path it took, you could pretty much figure out the destination. However, at that point, I was just happy for the pace to pick up and have something entertaining going on!

Matt said...

Sometimes it's the keen observance of one's mundane life that separate the master author from the good ones. I haven't read this book but I'll keep your review in mind. Have you read On Chesil Beach? :)

Sandy Nawrot said...

I HAVE read that one, and I loved it. It really left an impact on me, the story was so...wistful? bleak? heartbreakingly beautiful? Hard to describe, really. It left me shaking my head at McEwan's brilliance at painting the portrait of the human condition.

Matt said...

He does have a knack for observing and transcribing human condition. For almost two thirds of the book I thought it won't be resolved. For isn't how we are sometimes anyway?