Commuter reads: Saturday – Ian McEwan

I chose to read this because I read Atonement and loved it, so thought I would branch out and try some of his other works.

I found the themes of the book, set after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, to be very current still and the internal monologue of the protagonist, Henry Perowne, provides a fascinating mix of the global and the everyday mundane life of a middle-aged surgeon on his day off.

This intriguing mix and meandering of his thoughts managed to keep me reading although at the same time, the technique made for some very long-winded sentences and wordy, descriptive passages that I didn’t exactly enjoy on the packed 8am commuter bus.

The story hooks you in from the start with Henry witnessing a plane on fire over London, presumably heading to Heathrow. His frustration is mirrored by the reader’s as he waits for the news story to appear on the morning bulletin to find out what happened. It is almost disappointing when he, and the reader, learn that the crash landing was only a cargo plane making an emergency landing and that the outcome was very mundane. Henry is clearly anticipating another terrorist attack, as is the reader.

The book continues in this way, with many ups and downs, seemingly leading to something exciting before it fizzles to nothing. However, the last 80 pages are like a shock of cold water as suddenly everything kicks off and the events of the day and the lives of every character culminate in one long scene. The uncertainty, threat of violence, presence of old age, terminal illness, disease and new life all come together to create a metaphorically cliché mix of themes and ideas.

While the whole book tries to act as a poetic microcosm and can get confusing, the finale really is enjoyable and I would recommend this book purely for those last 80 pages.


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