Edition cover

  • ISBN10: 1400076196
  • ISBN13: 9781400076192
  • Paperback
  • 304 pages
  • Anchor

by Ian Mcewan

Reviewed by deargreenplace

Rating: 3 out of 5

  • Posted 7 years ago
  • Viewed 2391 times, 2 comments
  • Average user rating: (3.3/5)

Well-written, but not for me

Set in one day, this book describes the ever-so perfect life of neurosurgeon Henry Perowne, and how it is interrupted by an encounter with a man named Baxter. Although the back cover review mentions the Iraq War and a threat to London, don't be fooled. Nothing like that happens in the book - it's just setting the scene for the atmosphere in central London that day. This is not really a book for those who want a plot. Very little actually happens. Instead, we are with Perowne at work, at home, at his squash game, in the fishmarket, and I won't deny that Ian McEwan writes very beautifully, as another reviewer points out. The book just didn't grab me and make me want to read on, and was made all the more difficult by McEwan's very dense writing style and huge paragraphs and chapters (I read at bedtime and I like a book with good finishing points).

Additionally, I found it extremely difficult to empathise with Perowne or his family - the talented poet daughter, talented jazz musician son, and talented lawyer (journalist?) wife - I like characters with flaws. I'm sure others will be able to analyse this better, but I'll bet that a writer of McEwan's calibre had a reason for making the characters rather difficult to like. The part where he visits his mother is quite touching, and there are some great lines like where Perowne is speculating about what his daughter's boyfriend will be like, and a line near the end that made me think of Saddam Hussein: "They'll all be diminished by whipping a man on his way to hell" - suck on that, TB and GWB.

The most rewarding moment of the book for me was at the end when Matthew Arnold's lovely poem Dover Beach is reprinted. The last verse of this poem seems to hint at the overall message of the book, which appeased me some. I may have enjoyed this book more if I'd read it on a long flight or in any other confined space, and I do think the writing merits a second read at a later date to see if I find it any more enjoyable, but at this time, I have to say that Saturday was not for me.

Buffy: (to Giles) See, this is a school, and we have students, and they check out books, and then they learn things. Giles: I was beginning to suspect that was a myth.

Creative Commons License, some rights reserved


misskitty says:

I liked your review and agree with you 100%. My issue was that I was unable to even finish the darn thing for your reasons stated. Seems many people enjoyed it, but not our cup of tea.

#1 Posted 7 years ago

deargreenplace (this is my review) says:

Hi, thanks for your comment. I must admit that the description of the squash game almost did me in, but I persevered. It took me ages to read, and wasn't a particularly enjoyable experience.

Not sure if I'll try any more of Ian McEwan's books in the future. I did like his use of language (where it wasn't boring me to tears), but I really need something to happen in the book next time!

#2 Posted 7 years ago

Want to comment?

Sign-in to post a comment. Not got an account? Sign-up for free.