Author: Ian McEwan
Release Date: March 30, 2010
Publisher: Nan A. Talese
Genre: Literary Fiction
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Nobel prize winning physicist Michael Beard is a consummate adulterer. Married 5 times, he has had innumerable affairs, never able to stay faithful to his current wife. This time around, the tables have turned: his wife Patrice is having an affair. Unsure how to handle this ironic turn of events, Beard allows it to consume him in this novel of murder, betrayal, and infidelity.
I’m a big fan of Ian McEwan’s, so I jumped at the chance to review his new novel Solar. I had high expectations, and while some of them were met, this book fell short in others.
As always, McEwan’s writing was simply beautiful. His prose is fluid, softening even the most shocking of blows. I’m a firm believer in the idea that his novels are worth reading just for the writing, and Solar is no exception to this steadfast rule. The indescribably wonderful language used in the book makes even the slowest scenes move swiftly and beautifully.
The main character, Michael Beard, leaves something to be desired. McEwan intentionally made him the shallowest of all self-involved creatures, only caring about himself and his desires. He is impossible to like; readers will not be able to squeeze even a single ounce of sympathy out for such a loathsome man. I believe that, through Beard, McEwan was trying to make Solar a dark comedy, but I’m not sure it worked for me. It was difficult to read a book about a man I despised, though I did enjoy watching him get his comeuppance more than once in the book (if you’ve read it, you know what scenes I’m talking about).
The global warming aspect of the story was certainly interesting. I thought the debate between scientists about the issue, even if Beard was halfheartedly involved, skating by on his Nobel, was thought provoking. There is a lot of ego in this novel, which makes me wonder if it is also a satire on the scientific community. Unfortunately, since I don’t know much about that group, I can’t say for certain that I appreciated everything McEwan was trying to do.
Overall, I did enjoy reading Solar, though with the (intentionally) repulsive main character and not being able to fully appreciate the satirical themes, it didn’t thrill me nearly as much as his other works. However, if you’re a fan of literary fiction and are familiar with the scientific community, I’d suggest picking this one up immediately – you will likely love this book.