Pushkin complained about Byron’s characterisation by saying that he has a conspirator ‘even order a drink conspiratorially, and that’s absurd’. Saturday comes close to something similar—having a neurosurgeon order fish neurosurgically.
One strand of the book’s many arguments explores this debate between rationality and imagination. For all the author’s occasionally irritating in-jokes, it is not clear which side comes out on top.
It happens occasionally that a novelist will lose his sense of artistic proportion, especially when he has done a great deal of research and preparation. […] No immensity of labor will bring to successful birth a novel that was misconceived in the first place. Something of the kind seems to have happened here.
McEwan’s Perowne is compelling and his neuroses are well articulated, but Saturday’s climactic schmalz is cloying and forgettable.— Brian Flanagan