It was my first time at the book club at the Drayton (and much like last month’s reviewer, I didn’t know what to expect). The group was already vigorously discussing the book (I got there a bit late!), but I soon slotted into the conversation.
So, this month, we switched from talking about Kevin to talking about Henry and Ian – Ian McEwan that is. Henry is Henry Perowne, the protagonist of Ian McEwan’s 2005 novel Saturday. Based in London, ‘Saturday’ takes one day in 2003 of the life of a neurosurgeon who has to navigate a raft of problems and occurrences that would lead most people beyond the point of exasperation.
After a false start with a near air disaster at 3am, Henry’s cosseted life is thrown into disarray and uncertainty after a chance encounter with a man after a road traffic accident. Henry spends the day making deals with himself – concessions; some large, and some small, some with no consequences, and some with enormous ones. I won’t spoil the rest of the plot for you, but it does become a real page-turner towards the end; a cliché I know, but in this case, an accurate one.
McEwan spends the first third of the book in depicting the tableaux of Henry’s life – his home in upper-middle class affluence, over-achieving family and professional life, all with the backdrop of 2003’s 15th February ant-war protest. It’s a lengthy depiction, but the real pay-off is when the novel’s plot really kicks in.
As with any good meeting of a book club, discussion of the book was varied in terms of approval – it wasn’t rated nearly as highly as the previous month’s book, ‘We need to talk about Kevin’ and some felt that some of Ian McEwan’s other books, such as Atonement were more engaging. We discussed and debated about the nature of ‘threat’ in the book; threats both perceived and real that we encounter every day living in a city like London. The discussion also switched to and from the election – it was hard not to, given that we met the week before election day!
Next month’s book is The Siege of Krishnapur, and looks to be very different to the last two! We hope you can join us at the Drayton on the 25th to discuss it over a drink.
Review by Chris Gilson