Ian McEwan has written eighteen books, three of which I have read. My goal is to read all eighteen. Until then here are 3 short reviews of the McEwan books I have read.
Saturday is a “conscience” novel, meaning the author shows us what passes through the mind of a character during a single day in a specific time and place. Saturday takes place in London on February 15, 2003; which happens to be the same time I was living just outside of London myself. Henry Perowne, the lead protagonist, is a neurosurgeon married with 2 talented kids, one a daughter who is a published poet and a son who is a jazz musician, who are now young adults. His day starts with him waking up in the middle of the night, looking out the window and witnessing a plane on fire flying in to land at Heathrow Airport. This surreal moment sets the tone for the very eventful day in which Henry is tested and pushed into difficult decisions.
“There are these rare moments when musicians together touch something sweeter than they’ve ever found before in rehearsals or performance, beyond the merely collaborative or technically proficient, when their expression becomes as easy and graceful as friendship or love. This is when they give us a glimpse of what we might be, of our best selves, and of an impossible world in which you give everything to others, but lose nothing of yourself.”
Title: On Chesil Beach//Published: 2007
On Chisel Beach introduces us to a newlywed couple who has just arrived at a bed and breakfast set on the beach at Dorset, England in 1962. The couple is nervous for the upcoming newlywed “activities”, and in Ian McEwan’s incredible style, we experience their thoughts and fears in a very vulnerable light making each character feel familiar and understood by the reader. For anyone who has been married and has experienced that first night together, this book rings true on many levels, from the precise and intimate depiction of two young lovers eager to rise above the hurts and confusion of the past, to the touching story of how their unexpressed misunderstandings and fears shape the rest of their lives, On Chesil Beach is an extraordinary novel that brilliantly, movingly shows us that “This is how the entire course of a life can be changed: by doing nothing.”
“Their plan was to change into rough shoes after supper and walk on the shingle between the sea and the lagoon known as the fleet, and if they had not finished the wine, they would take that along, and swig from the bottle like gentlemen of the road. And they had so many plans, giddy plans, heaped up before them in the misty future, as richly tangled as the summer flora of the Dorset coast, and as beautiful. Where and how they would live, who their close friends would be, his job with her father’s firm, her musical career and what to do with the money her father had given her, and how they would not be like other people, at least, not inwardly. This was still the era—it would end later in that famous decade—when to be young was a social encumbrance, a mark of irrelevance, a faintly embarrassing condition for which marriage was the beginning of a cure. Almost strangers, they stood, strangely together, on a new pinnacle of existence, gleeful that their new status promised to promote them out of their endless youth—Edward and Florence, free at last! One of their favorite topics was their childhoods, not so much the pleasures as the fog of comical misconceptions from which they had emerged, and the various parental errors and outdated practices they could now forgive.”
Title: Atonement//Published: 2001
Atonement, my favorite of the three, is set on the hottest day of the summer in 1935. McEwan takes the reader from a elegant manor house set in the English countryside, to the horrors of World War II, then finally to a present-day London. McEwan captures childhood fantasies, love, war, England and class in a vivid light, enthralling you into this world of misunderstandings, false accusations, revenge, shame and forgiveness. The ability for me to be captivated by this book was helped by my own time living in a manor house in England much like the one described in Atonement. My own love story unfolded in this house tucked away in the country, much like Cecilia and Robbie. Our story is not a story of loss and tragedy, but still consisted of drama all the same.
If you are interested, be sure to read the book before you see the movie. Allow yourself the oppurutnity to create these characters instead of having a director create his own interpretation for you.
“Cecilia wondered, as she sometimes did when she met a man for the first time, if this was the one she was going to marry, and whether it was this particular moment she would remember for the rest of her life – with gratitude, or profound and particular regret.”