Book Review: SATURDAY, by Ian McEwan

I really wanted this book to knock my socks off. I did. But the only thing worse than admitting that it didn't is realizing that it might have, had I been in a slightly different frame of mind when I read SATURDAY.

To sum up my dissatisfaction, the first two-thirds of the book is slow. Bear in mind that the entire book takes place on one Saturday in February, so I should have been warned. Also, I've read tons of McEwan's novels, so I should have been prepared for his thoughtful pacing (the first half of Atonement only takes a single evening, after all)--but I don't think I was in the mood for a book that chugs along at low speed. Example (paraphrased): Henry turns away from the window and ponders, for roughly five pages, several interesting events that occurred in the past week. He turns toward the window once more and spends approximately two pages contemplating how old he's beginning to feel. He then brushes the curtain pensively and grows anxious over the state of the world; he reflects, for the rest of the chapter, on the coming war.

That sort of thing. Which, usually, is fine. But I just wasn't into Henry Perowne enough for this to float my particular boat. Briony Tallis I loved (from Atonement). I could spend five-hundred more pages inside her head, writing plays and swatting at nettles, but Perowne, no matter how fascinating the neurosurgery bits were (really, really fascinating--I loved those), I just couldn't slog along at thought-speed with him.

So the first two-thirds dragged. But once it got going, it really got going, and I loved seeing the whole Perowne family together, in any circumstances, and I adored Perowne's interactions with both Daisy and Theo, but especially with Daisy. I loved that there was a blues-guitarist kid named Theo in the book, because I am naturally drawn toward characters whose names, however vaguely, resemble mine, and I am also drawn toward blues guitarists. I loved all the complicated choices McEwan draws Perowne into making, and how real and clear all his little details are, as always, and I also love McEwan for his knack of picking fascinating professions for his characters and then planting all kinds of interesting and related information in the story to accompany, and thicken, the plot.

Ultimately, I wish I'd saved SATURDAY for a weekend when I was craving McEwan and perfectly in the mood for a slow build to a huge finish, rather than rushing into it when I was more in the mood for snappy plot twists and witty dialogue. His books deserve to be dwelled on and never rushed through. I feel a bit like I wrecked this for myself.

Ah, well.


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