Saturday by Ian McEwan is another great novel by this most talented writer. I’ve enjoyed a few of his other books and will probably read more of them in the future.

The whole book takes place on a Saturday (as one would expect) and describes it from the perspective of Henry Perowne. The events of the day and memories from the past come together in a masterpiece of storytelling.

Here are some of the sentences that I particularly enjoyed:

  • “… he experiences a superhuman capacity, more like a craving, for work.
  • He’s too experienced to be touched by the varieties of distress he encounters – his obligation is to be useful.
  • (page 17)
  • … or the pleasure he still takes in the relief of the relatives when he comes down from the operating room like a god, an angel with the glad tidings – life, not death.
  • This is what he has to have: possession, belonging, repetition.
  • … endless and beautiful forms of life, such as you see in a common hedgerow, including exalted beings like ourselves, arose from physical laws, from war of nature, famine and death. (Darwin/Dawkins)
  • The luxury of being half asleep, exploring the fringes of psychosis in safety.
  • And it interests him less to have the world reinvented; he wants it explained. (and on the next page) … the supernatural was the recourse of an insufficient imagination, a dereliction of duty, a childish evasion of the difficulties and wonders of the real, of the demanding re-enactment of the plausible. (I should probably quote this somewhere at the start of an essay)
  • (about a protest) … tens of thousands of strangers converging with a single purpose conveying an intimation of revolutionary joy.
  • (about his fancy car) It is, of course, possible, permissible, to love an inanimate object. But this moment was the peak of the affair; since then his feelings have settled into mild, occasional pleasure.
  • (tennis match, describing Flow state) It’s possible in a long rally to become a virtually unconscious being, inhabiting the narrowest slice of the present, merely reacting, taking one shot at a time, existing only to keep going.
  • (and later at work) Even his awareness of his own existence has vanished. He’s been delivered into a pure present, free of the weight of the past or any anxieties about the future. In retrospect, though never at the time, it feels like profound happiness.
  • (visit to dementing mother) It’s like taking flowers to a graveside – the true business is with the past. (and later) ‘She’s waiting for you,’ Jenny says. They both know this to be a neurological impossibility. Even boredom is beyond his mother’s reach.
  • Especially difficult when the first and best unconscious move of a dedicated liar is to persuade himself he’s sincere. And once he’s sincere, all deception vanishes.
  • … a man who believes he has no future and is therefore free of consequences.