Books: Saturday by Ian McEwan

Disclaimer: J. is not affiliated with and has no vested interest in

Having a couple of weeks of holiday, J. finds himself in the unfamiliar territory of having way too much free time. Therefore, he has resumed his old hobby (having relinquished the old one of computer games) of reading. One reference he uses to guide his reading is 1001 Books To Read Before You Die which lists the books, their summaries and comments in chronological order, ranging from Aesop’s Fables by Aesopus to Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.

One book J. has read since is Saturday by Ian McEwan, who is an amazing writer.

Firstly, he is evidently a writer who does his research before writing. The main character of the story is Henry Perowne, senior consultant neurosurgeon. As is evident from the acknowledgements page, Ian McEwan consulted various neurosurgeons whose advice lent authenticity to the story. Descriptions of Huntington’s chorea and its cause (repeat CAG segments inherited in an autosomal dominant fashion) were accurate and relevant to the story. The process of transsphenoidal hypophysectomy and of evacuation of a midline subdural haemorrhage were not only accurate but also fascinating. It takes literary skill to bring life to something as technical as neurosurgery.

Next, the descriptions were outstanding. The entire book is based on one Saturday, which explains the book’s title. Rather than bore, the characters, their thoughts, the places, the activities are described in such vivid detail, it seems to the reader as if the scene is coming to life in front of their eyes. Only, instead of being viewed through their eyes, they are instead viewing it through the eyes of a middle-aged neurosurgeon. Skill, indeed.

The plot was well thought out and creative. Certain books lack a certain realism to them which can mark the difference between a regular book and a great book. For instance, The Lovely Bones was an interesting book about the rape and murder of a young lady. However, when the young lady was given an opportunity to come back to life for a short period of time, she chose to sleep with a man instead of say… contacting her mother or telling the truth about what happened to her so that other young women would not fall prey to the same sexual predator. In Saturday, however, everything is believable. In Saturday, every situation, the reader is able to put himself into the character’s shoes and understand the motivation behind each action. Instead of falling into tedium, it actually adds to the fascinating nature of the book.
There was a good mix of characters of varying… character. The wife, the children, the grandfather, each of these characters was sufficiently fleshed out that none came across as too one-dimensional. Each had human emotions, human actions, human reactions that demonstrated a complexity of being that has the reader (i.e. J.) interested what they did and what came to be.

When still young enough to read Enid Blyton on a regular basis, J. once entertained fantasises of being able to become a writer one day. He thinks that Ian McEwan has shown that so many of the so-called bestselling authors are nothing but pretenders to a job title of “writer”.

Interesting arbitrary statistic: Ian McEwan has 8 books on the 1001 Books To Read Before You Die. J. is currently reading Atonement by the same author.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by P on March 27, 2007 at 7:37 pm

    In the same vein, I love books by Michael Crichton.


  2. I haven’t really perused any of his books, so I’ll have to take your word for it.


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