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Saturday, February 15, 2003. Henry Perowne is a contented man a successful neurosurgeon, the devoted husband of Rosalind and proud father of two grown-up children. Unusually, he wakes before dawn, drawn to the window of his bedroom and filled with a growing unease. What troubles him as he looks out at the night sky is the state of the world the impending war against Iraq, a gathering pessimism since 9/11, and a fear that his city and his happy family life are under threat. Later, Perowne makes his way to his weekly squash game through London streets filled with hundreds of thousands of anti…
About the Book
Saturday, February 15, 2003. Henry Perowne is a contented man a successful neurosurgeon, the devoted husband of Rosalind and proud father of two grown-up children. Unusually, he wakes before dawn, drawn to the window of his bedroom and filled with a growing unease. What troubles him as he looks out at the night sky is the state of the world the impending war against Iraq, a gathering pessimism since 9/11, and a fear that his city and his happy family life are under threat. Later, Perowne makes his way to his weekly squash game through London streets filled with hundreds of thousands of anti-war protestors. A minor car accident brings him into a confrontation with Baxter, a fidgety, aggressive, young man, on the edge of violence. To Perowne s professional eye, there appears to be something profoundly wrong with him. Towards the end of a day rich in incident and filled with Perowne s celebrations of life s pleasures, his family gathers for a reunion. But with the sudden appearance of Baxter, Perowne s earlier fears seem about to be realised.top
Ian McEwan interview/review
Interview with Ian McEwan with Suzi Feay, Waterstones Books Quarterly, Issue 15, 2005
- On September 11th
‘I couldn’t write anything for a long time after September 11. I ran out of steam. It was hard to get a clear mind. I had no idea how to write about what was happening and to lodge it in the mind of a character.’
- On the Anti-War March in London, February 15th 2003
‘The novel was always going to be set in the run-up to war. I was looking for a sequence of events, and the day of the march seemed to capture just about everything I wanted in a character who had a great deal of ambivalence. I decided it would give it a kind of unity, setting it over 24 hours. But it was always going to be a novel that in a sense history would write.’
- On Henry Perowne
‘Partly I wanted to write a novel about work. There’s not enough work in novels. It’s people getting divorced or marrying, as if there wasn’t this other thing that takes up as much time as sleep – or more. Out of that came the decision to write a novel about a neurosurgeon.’ ‘I thought, let’s devise a character who has, in most corners of his life, happiness. So give him a big house, no money worries, he has young adult children and he likes them – and they like him. Cut away from all those other novels: there are going to be no divorces, no other people coming into his marriage. Get all that out of the way and you still find you’re in a state of great anxiety because of the state of the world.’ ‘What I wanted to do was build up a sense of fantastic warmth and pleasure and food and wine and growing children and work. And then subtract that and see you’re still chewing your nails because of the state of the world.’
- On Fitzrovia Square – the Setting for Perowne’s House
‘The square is an amazing mix of what can happen, spiralling out of control. Especially in summer. There’s a lot of bench life. Multi-racial London at its best; people who are office workers, but from quite interesting offices: ad agencies, film companies and design consultancies and so on. And then the people with dogs on a string and the junkies, and they’re the same age! Everyone looks 26 and a half.’
- On His Research on Surgery for the Character of Henry Perowne
‘I really came to admire the whole team. Extraordinary, skilful, daring work. We all think we work hard. The surgeon is up at 5.30am and by 7.30am he’s getting ready for his first operation. That’s when I turn up, feeling a bit groggy. On their feet, doing a big procedure for two or three hours, then filing next door to the other theatre where somebody else is waiting to be operated on…at about 11am my main thought is, I have to sit down somewhere.’
- On Exploring the Nature of Consciousness through the Character of Perowne
‘He’s an ultra materialist philosophically. Very against religion or spirituality. He says to himself, there must be something more to life than saving lives. By the end, he’s thinking: No, there isn’t. Routinely he’s drilling into people, taking out huge bits of bone, removing bits of the brain with ice-cream scoops…’top
Starting Points for Discussion
- Discuss the fact that the novel takes place over one day.
- ‘Saturday is one of the first important British novels to deal with the global anxieties induced by 9/11’ Daily Telegraph. How far do you agree with this statement?
- In researching Saturday, Ian McEwan spent months observing brain surgery. How successful is the portrayal of Henry Perowne the surgeon?
- Discuss the pace of the novel and how Ian McEwan uses this to achieve maximum impact.
- How is the conflict between Henry and Baxter heightened by issues of class?
Other Books by Ian McEwan
On the hottest day of the summer of 1935, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis sees…
Suggested Further Reading
- Never Let Me Go ~ Kazuo Ishiguro
- Incendiary ~ Chris Cleave
- Arthur and George ~ Julian Barnes
- Criticism on Ian McEwan
- Understanding Ian McEwan ~ David Malcolm, 2002 (University of South Carolina)
- Ian McEwan: The Essential Guide ~ Margaret Reynolds & Jonathan Noakes, 2002, Vintage (Vintage Living Texts)
- Achieving Át-one-ment’ Storytelling and the Concept of the Self in Ian McEwan’s The Child in Time, Black Dogs, Enduring Love and Atonement ~ Claudia Schemberg, 2004 (Peter Lang)
- The Work of Ian McEwan: A Psychodynamic Approach ~ Christina Byrnes, 2002, Pauper Press