Hmnn, not really quite sure what to make of this book and I say this only because Ian McEwan is one of my favourite writers. I have loved everything I have ever read by him – Atonement, On Chesil Beach, A Child in Time, Amsterdam, Saturday and Enduring Love.
Certainly Solar doesn’t lack what McEwan does very well – which is his gift and control of language, unexpectedly dark, uproariously comedic moments and an ability to capture the emotional minutiae of a moment in life in all its glorious awful truth – yet somehow Solar is missing something for me.
Maybe the character at the center of Solar, Michael Beard the Nobel Prize winning physicist, is just too glutenous and shallow even for me. Maybe his endless affairs (he’s ending his fifth marriage having conducted eleven affairs in his five-year tenure as husband to Patrice) just gets boring and his love affair with overeating and drinking feels stifling – and his ability to ride the coat tails of his Nobel Prize that paves the way to him sitting on bloated, self- important, academically ego -inflated committees that ultimately land him as head of an environmental agency to which he has no business since he is neither knowledgeable nor interested in the issue – maybe that reminds me a little bit too much of how much money people make doing not much of anything except shifting words and reputations – or maybe it’s that he ‘s just too plain abhorrent.
Really there is nothing to recommend Michael Beard and that is likely the point. The book is intended as a comedic satire on something. There is no question that there were moments where I laughed out loud – hard. That was great. I loved that. But there wasn’t quite enough of that and maybe not enough of something else for me to think this book ranks with McEwan’s other works. It was okay. And as such I’m not sure that I would recommend it to someone as there are other better works out there particularly by the author. So I’d recommend one of his other books if you want to read great Ian McEwan.