Meh. It seems like this is a book that I should have enjoyed more than I did, and I can’t really pinpoint where it went wrong. It’s not you Saturday, it’s me. Really.
The book follows a London neurosurgeon over the course of a single day – Saturday, February 15, 2003. The books begins when the doctor awakens and wanders to his window half-asleep to see a flaming airplane streaking across the London sky. Post 9/11, that’ll freak you out. So that sets the tone for the rest of the book – a dread of something bad about to happen that one feels powerless to defend against.
Also on this day, a huge anti-war demonstration is to take place in London. The war against Iraq is still an open question and eventually 2 million Britons take to the streets to protest for peace. And we know what a fat load of good that will do them. I vaguely remember something about that demonstration on the news here at the time. It is interesting to read some of the British take on the war build-up, without having to read back issues of The Economist or something.
Our Dr. is excited about the return home of his daughter, who has been studying in Paris and will be publishing her first book of poetry. He is less excited about that his father-in-law, a self-important prick (and also a famous poet), will also be coming to visit. His son is a British blues prodigy, but he seems vaguely too clean cut for the job to me. His wife is a lawyer for a newspaper and does lots of 1st amendment type stuff – although as a Briton, I guess they call it something else. Anyway, just your typical over-achieving British family. I suppose they are like the Huxtables without the pudding pops.
There is surprisingly little dialog in the book. Much of the book, I’d suppose is a meditation by a well-to-do British citizen on the condition of the modern man in the new millennium where danger can come from all sides. While light on conversation, the book is not without conflict or action. There is a section about a car accident that the Dr. gets into that is as suspenseful and anxiety-producing as any thriller. Seriously, it had me burning through the pages there.
Without giving too much away, the days events circle back around on the Dr. and insert themselves into his home. The Dr. finds out a lot about the strength and character of his family and of himself.
The book is very well written. That Ian McEwan is no slouch. He captures the dread and malaise of the time perfectly. Maybe that’s what got to me. I’ve been working hard to get that pre-election hopelessness behind me. Anyway, this is exactly the kind of book that I generally really like. Which is why, with very little prodding from Nitro, I’ve decided that my next book will be exactly the kind of book that I would generally steer clear. Time to mix things up.