I think I intended to read Ian McEwan's novel Saturday when it first appeared in 2005 and then confused the intention with the act. I could always talk about it in general terms (perhaps from reading reviews), but when I picked it up at a book sale not long ago and began reading, "Some hours before dawn Henry Perowne, a neurosurgeon, wakes to find himself already in motion, pushing back the covers from a sitting position, and then rising to his feet..." it was not familiar. Now that I've read it and found it so vivid, so powerful I have to believe I would have recalled it had I read it before. Still, it is worth reading again.
I've read most of McEwan's novels, including On Chesil Beach. Atonement, Amsterdam (which has one of the best depictions of musical composition I've ever read), Enduring Love, and Black Dogs. I found Saturday particularly interesting because of the limitations McEwan set himself: He tells the story from only the point of view of Henry Perowne, and all the action takes place on a specific day in history—Saturday, February 15, 2003—in London. I am entirely convinced that this character could have had these experiences and these thoughts on that day.
In a sense, not much happens. Henry, waking in the night and staring out his bedroom window, sees a plane on fire, but it turns out be a cargo jet that lands safely at Heathrow. Henry makes love to his wife, has breakfast with his musician son, has a minor car accident on his way to his weekly squash game (and a confrontation with three roughnecks in the other car), the squash game with an associate from the hospital, an afternoon visit to his Alzheimer-stricken mother, and a return home to greet his poet father-in-law and his poet daughter who is returning from six months in Paris.
The day is extraordinary for London because thousands of demonstrators gathered to protest the impending war in Iraq. The day is extraordinary for Henry because the accumulated events change him (I do not want to spoil the story for someone who has not read it). The day is extraordinary for the reader for Henry's (or McEwan's) thoughts, insights, observations about brain surgery, war, violence, poetry, music, competition, aging, death, and much, much more.
A few more things I like about the book: Henry is—generally—happy and successful, a skilled surgeon in a loving marriage. Do you know how hard it must be to make someone like that interesting to a reader? Henry has two children, a famous father-in-law, and a dying mother, and we learn who they are, what they want, what they're like. He has associates at the hospital where he practices, one of whom is an American with whom Henry plays squash. And he has an antagonist who is more than a plot device. If you haven't read it, I recommend it.