Saturday, by Ian McEwan, took me the whole weekend to read.

I always confuse Ian McEwan, one of my favorite contemporary authors, with Ewan McGregor for some reason; perhaps because both people have amazing accents, and Ian McEwan writes stories of love, while Ewan McGregor enacts them. But I won’t distract you guys with the secret love affair I have with Ewan McGregor’s cute chin dimple, or the way he raises his eyebrows every time he smiles, and I will do my utmost to not include any references to his amazing singing in Moulin Rouge or how I wished I was Sandra Templeton in Big Fish and that dear Ewan would kiss me in a field of bright yellow daffodils (one of my biggest fantasies of all time).

Yes, I will try to refrain myself from mentioning any of that.

But anyways, for those of you who’ve read any stream of consciousness writing, it’s hard to see Saturday as a work of “mental jibberish” as I fondly call anything by Joyce. And yet we do have that sense of the rambling talk, the enjoyment and astonishment of consciousness, the random thoughts that don’t need to be in a novel but are exactly what makes Ian McEwan’s writing so damn enjoyable. Apart from that sauntering, romantic style that he imparted to the world with Atonement, Saturday gives a brief glimpse of into a single day of a regular guy, who is impacted by a strange and random event that will change the way he thinks about life and about his family, for forever.

It has a brilliant truth to it; don’t we all spend our conscious time devoured with thoughts of self; about what we have to do today, who we have to talk to, what we wish we were doing, and the like. Rarely does anything but exercise get our pulse racing above 100, and even then, only for a moment. And to see how an actual, rather normal character deals with circumstances outside of his control or experience is fantastic: the inner struggle of the consciousness to forgo thinking of self to think of other possibilities of happenstance.

This novel, although it takes place in Britain, still manages to retain the kind of shell-shocked emotions that we all felt after the planes hit the Twin Towers. A sense of immediate need/hurt, and yet a sense of separation and denial as well. The perfect blend of internal resolution and external conflict in the writing style of a poem. A sense of stillness in the midst of chaos. A line that I really love from this book is, “Novels and movies, being restlessly modern, propel you forwards or backwards through time, through days, years, or even generations. But to do it’s noticing and judging, poetry balances itself on the pinprick of the moment.” Only through poetry are we led through the main character’s day, detail by painstaking detail, without the horrifying need to kill ourselves through boredom. Because although it’s an entire novel settled on a single day, we don’t feel the necessary passage of time that makes most novels and movies feel real. And while none of us can remember all the details of the day in which something life-changing happens, whether it’s the birth of a baby, the death of a loved one, or a national tragedy like the twin tower attack, we can all remember the single moment.

Even though this novel is about a whole day, really, it’s about that moment in life when we realize that everything from now on, is going to be different.


About Angela

Editor, bookbinder, and writer.

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