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Saturday    by Ian McEwan order for
by Ian McEwan
Order:  USA  Can
Nan A. Talese, 2005 (2005)
Hardcover, Audio, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Within the first few pages of Saturday, I knew I was in for something different. That feeling grew into an appreciation of a literary work of lyrical prose, and a remarkable, challenging read, written by an author with an extraordinary intellect.

McEwan's lead, neurologist Henry Perowne, awakens at twilight, gazes out the window and sees what he believes to be a meteor. On second glance, he realizes it is a plane on fire spiraling to earth toward Heathrow. A terrorist perhaps? Perowne reviews his medical routine of the day before his day off - Saturday. The neurosurgeon is at ease with his profession and comfortable with tending to an elderly woman's 'trigeminal neuralgia', and a young girl's 'tumor in the superior cerebellar vermis'. McEwan writes of the doctor, 'No regrets. He's renowned for his speed, his success rate and his list - he takes over three hundred cases a year. Some fail, a handful endure ... but most thrive'.

It is February 3, 2003, just over a year after America's 9/11. Henry's story takes place in one day. His leisure plans include a friendly game of squash with colleague Jay Strauss, and a visit to his mother, who suffers with Alzheimer's. Perowne will also be shopping for the menu planned for the family reunion that evening, to include his wife, media lawyer Rosalind, adult children (Daisy flying in from Paris, and Theo), plus father-in-law John Grammaticus. Of his loved ones, Henry thinks, 'What a stroke of luck, that the woman he loves is also his wife' His son, Theo is a guitarist who 'carries himself on stage as he does in conversation, quietly, formally'. His daughter, 'intellectual Daisy' is a postgraduate, expecting her first volume of poems to be published in May.

Perowne is aware that it is a day for a planned mass demonstration to protest the war in Iraq. The need to divert from his customary route leads to an automobile accident, not of his doing. Even though it's a minor scrape, three men demand immediate compensation from Henry. As they talk about it, Perowne detects symptoms of Huntington's disease in one of the men, Baxter. A distraction allows Perowne to steal away from a dangerous situation. It is the latter incident that comes back that evening to haunt the Perowne family reunion with terror, and nightmarish results. Ian McEwan's novel accords Henry Perowne infinite introspection and retrospection, and Saturday is a captivating page-turner.

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