An extraordinary Saturday for Ian McEwan…

This will be my second and so far most enjoyable experience of Ian McEwan.

Henry Perrone is a Neurosurgeon. He lives in London in 2003 – in the height of the frenzied fears of terror attacks. In fact, on the Saturday in question, Perrone witnesses a frightening mishap with a plane very early in the morning. On the same day, a major rally is occurring to protest against British involvement in Iraq. While the news throughout the day continues to report the near-plane crash, Perrone discovers that true fear is really closer to home.

A minor car accident brings him into contact with Baxter, whose emotionally instability is soon diagnosed by Perrone as the result of a rare neurological disorder. With special knowledge of Baxter’s condition, Perrone is soon able to distract him and escape the sticky situation. However, Baxter is not finished with him and later makes his way to the Perrone household, where a variety of family dramas are already playing themselves out.

Just when you think the novel is finished, new levels of morality are explored when Perrone chooses to operate on an injured Baxter. Will he choose revenge or forgiveness and understanding? And will those around him accept his choice?

My exposure to this book was an interesting one – I listened to it on an audio book while recovering from eye surgery (and for as long as it took me to finish it). While I did enjoy the novel, I have mixed feelings about the format. On the positive side, it was a refreshing change, allowing me to “read” two books at once. It was also handy on long walks and drives. But it is easy to miss things if you doze off (not while driving obviously!) or if your thoughts wander. You also do not have the luxury to go back over things if you would like to check them – can you imagine trying to find just one line on a whole CD? But I will try it again from time to time – particularly with easier, more accessible texts.

So, my McEwan odyssey continues. Saturday is a lovely mixture of the sublime and the mundane – it is certainly not a trite in the way I felt Enduring Love was. Perrone’s family are a fascinating set of characters, and Perrone spends the day reflecting on life in general – and confronting or remembering the many milestones of his experience.

I am keen to keep reading McEwan’s superb prose – Atonement looks good. But I will have to get in soon, before the film comes out!

Speaking of films, the newspaper today reported that Fred Schepsi has signed for a film version of Kate Grenville’s wonderful The Secret River. Check out my blog entry on the novel.
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