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Five Stars

SaturdayIan McEwan is one of my favorite writers, BUT more often than not, his books end up upsetting me. If you want to see what I mean without doing any reading, watch the movie version of  Atonement, and if you aren’t a sniveling mess at the end, then you are fit to be one of Bashar Assad’s minions.

Anyway, McEwan’s writing is always delicious, even when he’s sending you into the depths of despair, but for once, he left me feeling downright warm and fuzzy. Saturday is smaller in scope than many of his other novels, but a lot of ground is covered in one day of the protagonist’s life.

Set in the days leading up to the Iraq war, James Perowne, a London neurosurgeon has a Saturday full of mundane as well as highly unusual activities. Everything from a 9/11 scare to an intense game of squash, a few run-ins with some dangerous thugs, the making of fish stew, his everyday brain surgery routine, and some important moments with his family.

Beautifully written as always, and meticulously researched on the neurosurgery front, this had some intense and frightening moments- McEwan can string out the suspense masterfully- but the ending was downright life-affisming and heart-warming. Pretty nice for a change!

Perowne’s family was rather on the perfect side, but that was nice for a change, too. It was nice to contemplate four happy people living in a nice house, the parents a doctor and lawyer, the son a gifted musician and the daughter a talented poet. Even the alcoholic, brilliant father-in-law was at bottom, a great guy.

It also felt a bit ironic to read this on the eve of yet another Middle Eastern war. McEwan does a nice job of laying out all sides of the question, which just brings home the messy, difficult decisions a superpower has to make, and how ill-equipped it and its citizens are to deal with any kind of nuance.