Book Review: Solar – Ian McEwan

Title: Solar
Author: Ian McEwan
ISBN: 9780385533416
Pages: 304
Release Date: March 30, 2010
Publisher: Nan A. Talese
Genre: Literary Fiction
Source: Publisher
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Summary:

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.

Review:

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.

Comments

  1. I know I need to read this author, I have one of his books with me.
    Thanks for a gr8 review as always!

  2. I know I need to read this author, I have one of his books with me.
    Thanks for a gr8 review as always!

  3. I’m about to start reading this book myself and I’m glad to see you enjoyed it. Although I have to say I’m not looking forward to reading about a loathesome character.

  4. I’m about to start reading this book myself and I’m glad to see you enjoyed it. Although I have to say I’m not looking forward to reading about a loathesome character.

  5. I heard about this book on NPR. I’ve never read McEwan before, so maybe I’ll start with a different title first and read this one after.

  6. I heard about this book on NPR. I’ve never read McEwan before, so maybe I’ll start with a different title first and read this one after.

  7. This sounds a little like a Philip Roth novel. I always find his male protagonists so scummy and unlikeable (except in The Human Stain).

  8. This sounds a little like a Philip Roth novel. I always find his male protagonists so scummy and unlikeable (except in The Human Stain).

  9. I enjoyed Atonement, and I agree, McEwan’s writing is wonderful. I’m not sure that I’ll read Solar, but I would certainly like to pick up another of his works.

  10. I enjoyed Atonement, and I agree, McEwan’s writing is wonderful. I’m not sure that I’ll read Solar, but I would certainly like to pick up another of his works.

  11. LOL! I’m a scientist and I suggested that scientists might get frustrated with this book as things are over-explained. It looks as though no-one really loves this one.

  12. LOL! I’m a scientist and I suggested that scientists might get frustrated with this book as things are over-explained. It looks as though no-one really loves this one.

  13. I’m not a scientist, so this may not be the book for me!

  14. I’m not a scientist, so this may not be the book for me!

  15. I am a huge McEwan fan and can’t wait to read this book! I don’t have a huge background in science, but I don’t think that I will let that stop me from burying myself in this book! I am glad you liked it, but sorry to hear that it is not as good as some of his other books. Thanks for the honest review.

  16. I am a huge McEwan fan and can’t wait to read this book! I don’t have a huge background in science, but I don’t think that I will let that stop me from burying myself in this book! I am glad you liked it, but sorry to hear that it is not as good as some of his other books. Thanks for the honest review.

  17. I’m somewhat torn on McEwan – I loved Atonement but wasn’t so keen on Enduring Love. Looking forward to reading this one!

  18. I’m somewhat torn on McEwan – I loved Atonement but wasn’t so keen on Enduring Love. Looking forward to reading this one!

  19. I’ve only read Atonement and On Chesil Beach (loved them) but this just doesn’t appeal to me. Not sure why. Maybe at another time.

  20. I’ve only read Atonement and On Chesil Beach (loved them) but this just doesn’t appeal to me. Not sure why. Maybe at another time.

  21. I really enjoyed On Chesil Beach, but was underwhelmed by Saturday. I did win this book from Simon and have donated it to my Adult Literacy League auction, and I can’t wait to see how it sells!

  22. I really enjoyed On Chesil Beach, but was underwhelmed by Saturday. I did win this book from Simon and have donated it to my Adult Literacy League auction, and I can’t wait to see how it sells!

  23. Great review! I have read only on book by McEwan and loved it, but this one sounds like it might not be for me. I don’t have much of a scientific mind!

  24. Great review! I have read only on book by McEwan and loved it, but this one sounds like it might not be for me. I don’t have much of a scientific mind!

  25. I got about 50 pages into Solar before I just shouted “uncle!” I really couldn’t take any more. You’re absolutely right: Michael is such a loathsome character; I absolutely hated him and couldn’t muster the strength to read any further.

    McEwan is an incredibly gifted writer, but this “comedy” most definitely wasn’t for me. And the science bored me to tears!

  26. I got about 50 pages into Solar before I just shouted “uncle!” I really couldn’t take any more. You’re absolutely right: Michael is such a loathsome character; I absolutely hated him and couldn’t muster the strength to read any further.

    McEwan is an incredibly gifted writer, but this “comedy” most definitely wasn’t for me. And the science bored me to tears!

  27. Ian McEwan has just been shortlisted for the The Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize shortlist 2010 for his book ‘Solar’.

    Find out who he’s up against on the Bollinger blog: http://www.experiencebollinger.co.uk/news/

  28. Ian McEwan has just been shortlisted for the The Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize shortlist 2010 for his book ‘Solar’.

    Find out who he’s up against on the Bollinger blog: http://www.experiencebollinger.co.uk/news/

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