Producing a follow up to Atonement, hailed as one of the greatest pieces of contemporary fiction, cannot have been an easy task.
Saturday is a very different story, one which takes note of today’s changed political climate and is, therefore, perhaps McEwan’s most genuinely contemporary book.
The story follows twenty-four hours in the life of neurosurgeon, Henry Perowne, whose comfortable existence is unsettled over the course of the day. The novel considers the intricacies of city life and explores the malaise of Perowne’s personal encounters in the context of global developments, notably the Iraq war and terrorism.
Saturday manages to present conflicting perspectives and never becomes simplistically partisan. The novel contains humour as well as intense sadness; Perowne’s visit to his ailing mother encapsulates this quality in a beautifully written passage.
Beauty in literature is scrutinised as poetry’s redemptive power is explored in an implausible scene towards the novel’s end. Yet we forgive McEwan this somewhat improbable moment because Saturday itself manages to show us the importance of fiction at a time when reality is often more shocking