The critical response to Saturday
must be making Ian McEwan a very happy man (not that his virtually unassailable position as Britains leading novelist has been in doubt). While contemporaries (and rivals) Martin Amis and Will Self have had much more hit-or-miss records recently, each new McEwan novel gleans a host of plaudits, and Atonement
has been generally hailed as his masterpiece. Saturday
may not enjoy quite such acclaim, but its a remarkably accomplished piece of work, as richly drawn and characterised as anything he has written.
McEwan's protagonist is neurosurgeon Henry Perowne, a man comfortably ensconced in an enviable upper middle class existence. His wife is a successful newspaper lawyer, his daughter Daisy a budding poet. But as he wakes one Saturday morning and witnesses a plane accident through his window, he is not yet aware that this is a harbinger of a sustained assault on all that he holds dear. Its a McEwan trademark to begin his novels with a striking or violent rupture of everyday existence, but this opening is a prelude to his most impressively sustained narrative yet. Its the publication day of Henrys daughter's poetry collection, but a chance encounter with a drunken trio emerging from a lap-dancing club ends violently, even as a march against the war in Iraq streams past nearby. And this encounter with the menacing Baxter, main antagonist of the group, is to have fateful consequences. As Saturday progresses, Henry is forced to examine every aspect of his life and beliefs, not least his attitude to the war.
Unlike many of his peers, McEwan is not content to reduce the issues of the war to simple opposition, in which Tony Blair is characterised as a war criminal. Henry has treated a victim of Saddam's brutality, and although a comic encounter with the Prime Minister himself is a highlight of the book, both Henry (and his creator) are obliged to consider the complex skein of the conflict from all sides. While there are missteps (the poetic daughter, Daisy, is thinly drawn), McEwan's invigorating and trenchant novel is an unmissable experience. --Barry Forshaw
--This text refers to the
and urgent" (Observer
"The supreme novelist of his generation" (Sunday Times
"He remains at the top of his game - assured, accomplished and ambitious" (Daily Telegraph
"Richly laden. McEwan pulls out all the stops. A rich book, sensuous
and thoughtful. McEwan has found in Saturday
the right form to showcase his dazzling talents" (Sunday Telegraph
"A book of great moral maturity, beautifully alive to the fragility of happiness and all forms of violence... Everyone should read Saturday
... Artistically, morally and politically, he excels
" (The Times