It is the ultimate test of a fiction writer to chronicle, in a novel, the events of a single day in one person’s life. Virginia Woolf does it beautifully in her novel Mrs. Dalloway. So, too, does British, Booker prize-winning novelist, Ian McEwan, in his most recent work Saturday.
Beginning with his awakening before dawn with a vague feeling of foreboding Saturday takes the reader through the day of Henry Perowne, a middle-class, British neurosurgeon, husband, and father of two adult children.
We’re given a glimpse into the ordinary (a chat with his son, a squash game, and his dinner preparation) and the extraordinary (a view from his bedroom window of an airliner’s emergency descent over the rooftops of London, and a chance meeting with a mentally handicapped young man).
The gentle crescendo builds as we anticipate the family’s late afternoon arrival at the Perowne’s upscale London townhouse. Daughter Daisy, a poet, is back from school in Paris; father-in-law, Grammaticus, also a poet, is visiting from his self-imposed exile in France; son, Theo, is fresh from a blues guitar gig; and wife, Rosalind, a lawyer, is just out of court.
The day ends in conflict and a grave, moving, and hopeful resolution. This is a novel about human flaws and our struggle against them. Is Henry right in choosing the science of his profession over the art of his daughter and father-in-law? Is he right to “fix’ patients brains when he can’t “fix” their minds?
More introspective and cerebral than his previous novel, Atonement, Ian McEwan’s Saturday is the right mix of self-discovery and current events. It is a novel that will leave you pondering the conflicts and resolutions of your own life.