Red Wheelbarrow Book Reviews

Renee Abigail Penelope Harold Meg

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from Renée's Reviews




by Ian McEwan
Vintage UK paperback

One of the reviewers referred to this latest of McEwan¹s novels as"profound" and "urgent," a review I read after reading the book. I began the book filled with doubt. I had a hard time entering the story because of the almost sterile chill that seemed to pervade the setting. Henry Perowne is a neurosurgeon whose mind works with the same acute precision with which he performs his surgery: cleanly, clearly, decisively. We see him stand by the window in the cold of a winter morning on the same Saturday in which the largest ever peace rally against the war in Iraq is going to take place within hours. His day is clearly mapped out for him: first the ritual Saturday morning squash game with an old colleague, shopping for the dinner this evening to prepare a celebratory meal for the arrival, from Paris, of his daughter whom he has not seen for some months, the regular visit to see his mother in the afternoon in her home for Alzheimer patients, before attending a concert given by his son and preparing himself for the additional visit of his father in law whom he does not love. All is planned and laid out, as for a surgery. The scene is set: everything is both known and yet not completely, not in its actual detail. But the plans are laid. And all goes awry. And yet the center holds. The people are so beautifully described, our surgeon is so aware of the happenings and of the consequences at the same time, that the reader is both terrified and in awe of such control. The author¹s control. This is a mature work: beautifully written, passionately felt, intellectually convincing. There is also a love story: the love of husband and wife, the love of parents for their grown children, the love of sophisticated and fortunate people who know and understand the complexity of life in which there are no easy answers, no simple solutions. I return to the words with which I began. The book is urgent and convincing. The urgency is in relation to the world of violence in which we all live. The convincing has to do with the quality of love which can be sustaining and in this case, it is.

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