by IAN MCEWAN
'He is this country's unrivalled literary giant' Independent on SundayThe new novel by one of Britain's finest writers.
Saturday is a novel set within a single day in February 2003. Henry Perowne is a contented man - a successful neurosurgeon, happily married to a newspaper lawyer, and enjoying good relations with his children, who are young adults. What troubles him is the state of the world - the impending war against Iraq, and a general darkening and gathering pessimism since the New York and Washington attacks two years before.
On this particular Saturday morning, Perowne makes his way to his usual squash game with his anaesthetist, trying to avoid the hundreds of thousand of marchers filling the streets of London, protesting against the war. A minor accident in his car brings him into a confrontation with a small-time thug called Miller. To Perowne's professional eye, something appears to be profoundly wrong with this young man. Miller, in his turn, believes the surgeon has humiliated him, and visits the opulent Perowne home that evening, during a family reunion - with savage consequences that will lead Henry Perowne to deploy all his skills to keep this doomed figure alive.
Born in 1948, the son of a Scots sergeant-major, Ian McEwan's childhood was a typical army one of the time - moving from Aldershot to Singapore and then again to Tripoli so at the age of eleven he was sent away to Woolverstone Hall, a state-run boarding school. He describes himself as 'a very mediocre pupil' until he was seventeen, when he began to find English literature exciting. After graduating from Sussex University he went on to do an MA course in creative writing at East Anglia, under the direction of Malcolm Bradbury and Angus Wilson, and began writing short stories. His first short story, Homemade, was accepted by The New American Review and the money earned from its publication paid the way for a trip to Afghanistan.
In 1972 he returned to England and taught English as a second language whilst writing. In 1975 his volume of short stories First Love, Last Rites was published to sensational critical acclaim. Al Alvarez hailed it as a 'brilliant debut by the most promising writer around' and Anthony Thwaite described the book as 'a brilliant performance... with an originality astonishing for a writer still in his twenties.' It won the Somerset Maugham Award and revitalised the short story form.
In 1978, his second collection of stories
In Between the Sheets, with the now familiar McEwan themes of adolescent
sexual awakenings, the perverse and the macabre, shocked the English
literary establishment. 'What is strange and subterranean about human nature
interest me far more than writing fiction about people accumulating wealth
or losing wealth.'
In 1980, the BBC production of The Imitation Game gained instant recognition - 'A Play for Today of rare distinction' (Clive James). In 1981, his second novel The Comfort of Strangers was published and again, hailed as the work of one of the most outstanding writers of the 20th century. 'McEwan has already created a style and a vision of his own...no-one can afford not to read him.' (John Fowles). The Comfort of Strangers was shortlisted for the 1981 Booker Prize.
The Child in Time, his third novel, published in 1987, won the Whitbread Award for the best novel of that year. Phenomenally well received, it drew high praise from Craig Raine and Jeanette Winterson and John Carey said in the Sunday Times 'If you want to be appalled, refreshed, exhilarated, enlivened - read it.'
The Innocent, published in 1990, was an extraordinary achievement. He took a genre until then dominated by Deighton and le Carre - and completely reinvented it. 'It displays the immaculate artistry we have come to expect from one of Britain's most highly respected novelists,' Sunday Times.
Black Dogs was published in 1993 and once again the plaudits followed; '...testament to one of recent fiction's most remarkable regeneration McEwan's transformation from a purveyor of knowingly nasty tales to a novelist unsurpassed for his responsive, responsible humanity.' Peter Kemp, Sunday Times
Enduring Love was published in September 1997 to huge critical and commercial success; 'Enduring Love is an excellent book, executed with all McEwan's customary panache, all his usual readability and screw-tightening.' Mail on Sunday. The film adaptation is released in November 2004.
Atonement was published in 2002 and went on to be a huge bestseller in both Cape and Vintage.
'Subtle as well as powerful, adeptly
encompassing comedy as well as atrocity, Atonement is a richly intricate
book A superb achievement which combines a magnificent display of the
powers of the imagination with a probing exploration of them.'
'He is this country's unrivalled literary
giant. A fascinatingly strange, unique and gripping novel.'
'McEwan's best novel so far, his
'The best thing he has ever written.'
McEwan's novel is art of the very highest kindAtonement creates the pre-war atmosphere with a subtlety that is utterly compellingA masterpiece.
|Scotland on Sunday