Sunday, March 27, 2005

#14 - Saturday

The extraordinary success of McEwan's last novel, Atonement, is already starting to be seen in the power of the sales of his latest, Saturday. They are two very different books, but with McEwan's keen sense for detail and the ability to create almost a perfect story, in that the plot, characters and/or situation seem to entertwine without anything seeming awkward or out of place, Saturday seems more self-contained and close-knit, despite being essentially a family drama, like Atonement.

I loved Atonement. It was a brilliant, bittersweet novel about loss and regret; in Saturday McEwan doesn't sweep the timespan, but rather keeps his focus on one, seemingly normal Saturday. Henry Perowne, successful neurosurgeon, wakes up early, heads to the window and sees a plane crash in the distance. This tragic event becomes an overarching symbol for the events of the day: the criminal asapect involved in the crash; the near-death experience for the pilots; and the absolute almost absurdity of watching a plane crash in downtown London.

A strange start to a strange, but yet somehow still absolutely normal Saturday. As Perowne goes through the motions of the morning, falling back asleep, having something for breakfast, preparing for his squash game, McEwan fills up the book with far-reaching and intimate details of the man's life. How he met his wife, whom he loves to distraction; how his children will both be at dinner, one a poet living abroad in Paris, the other an upcoming blues musician.

It's almost as if McEwan challenges the reader to find the mundane in this everyday life--that is until a minor traffic accident derails not only his perfect day, but it somehow comes back to haunt Perowne much later that night.

To say that it's an excellent book would be a glossy adjective that doesn't necessarily exploit the success of the novel. It's almost Hemingway-esque, not in it's prose, for McEwan writes long, luxurious sentence, but in structure. It's a book obsessed with building a character and looking at the world from one day from his perspective, watching that perspective change, and then watching everything float back to normal, but with one of those moments, those ever-changing moments that affect your life forever, behind him.

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