02 January 2014

Saturday, by Ian McEwan

The entire plot of this novel takes place on a Saturday in February 2003. Neurosurgeon Henry Perowne wakes up early and has a very full day. In the course of this day he sees every member of his family, including his elderly (demented) mother and drunken poet father-in-law. In addition to the reunion, Perowne faces a serious and dangerous confrontation.

I was glad to find that this book was not like the last McEwan I read, which had a trick ending. Saturday was a thoroughly good read, with a great plot and plenty to think about. There is much debate in the book about the wisdom or folly of invading Iraq, and speculation about what the outcomes of such action--or, indeed, the outcomes of inaction--might be.

There is an issue toward the end that I don't want to be too specific about as it would spoil the book for another reader, but I do think there's an unrealistic representation of the professional behavior of a surgeon here. I doubt that the event described near the end of the story would or could have taken place in a British hospital, but I suppose I could be wrong.

McEwan includes an interesting American, Jay Strong, who has come to London to work as an anesthetist, thereby reducing his salary by a great deal, because he loves (1) socialized medicine, and (2) a British woman.

A Guardian / Observer review.

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