Thursday, June 7, 2007


The Book: Saturday by Ian McEwan; Novel

'Saturday' follows Dr. Henry Perowne, a doctor in England, on the day off of his busy workweek through a twenty four hour period of captivating events. The author walks through the proceedings in slow motion, reflecting in incredible tones, not only the development of the plot, but Perowne's thoughts, observations and inner deliberations in response to those occurrences. This projected ordinary off-day had turned extraordinary when Perowne encountered violence on the road and later at home, but it was the depiction of varying perspectives on the many issues that made the book so extraordinary.


This contemporary novel brushes on many active world issues, all worthy of discussion. The backdrop is a major anti-war demonstration in London while America is considering sending its troops to Iraq. Ironically, the demonstration might as well still be going on today. Going back in time, tracking back to a day we did or did not have evidence of WMD, the book begged to question the leadership of the free world. In it, Dr. Strauss, an American born doctor of Perowne's team says "They hate your prime minister. But oh, do they loath my president". I wondered if the smug attitude towards Americans in general and the leadership in particular might be and effect of a free world that provides the opportunity and encouragement to do so. Or are we Americans indeed a town of buffoons?


I was most fascinated by the tug-n-pull between the profession of Neurosurgery and the thoughts of philosophy. While standing over the bed of a patient whose scalp is cut open and bones moved aside, we see two images of that same individual. The mortal, helpless, stiff figure of bones lying in his own blood, and the intricate, terrifying and intense person we know him to be.

The human being. We're mere matter but, oh, we matter.



Henry's mother, at the 'present' time in a nursing home while dementia reduces her basic abilities, is described as a woman that was an ideal 'yenta' in her prime. Neighborly gossip and overdone housework were the limits of her interests. From the brief picture painted, Mrs. Lilian Perowne resembles everything I know in our female society today. However, the protagonist now 'matures' his perception of women like his mother:

"He recognized his mother's themes in nineteenth-century novels. There was nothing small-minded about her interests. Jane Austen and George Eliot shared them too. Lilian Perowne wasn't stupid or trivial, her life wasn't unfortunate and he had no business as a young man being condescending towards her."

I wouldn't say a woman that is limited to very unintelligible activities is stupid or trivial. Nonetheless, I do think that neither Jane Austen nor George Eliot change the fact that women do not exercise their capacity when going through life in unchallenging, repetitive activities. From what I gather Jane Austen has a talent for writing in very colorful characters. Her human understanding is what makes her books outstanding, and the material settings just help polarize the character diversity. But as artistic as a novelist may portray it this limited lifestyle does not require one to employ much of their uniqueness, and thus, it's all actually just pretty darn dull.

I cannot suggest that women like Mrs. Perowne are less happy for how they live. It actually appears to the contrary, that for many hard work and simplicity is satisfying, but I don't hold unchallenging routines in high regard either. Is encouraging this lifestyle an unjust to those that don't know that there is more to it, or is Perowne right, it is the yentas that there is more to - beyond their shallow impression?


Favorite Line: "The trick in human success and domination is to be selective in your mercies"

Suggest a book!

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