Tag Archives: Ian McEwan

Book Commentary: Solar by Ian McEwan

Ian McEwan, British author

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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 TimeAmsterdamSaturday 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.

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A Child in Time: Ian McEwan – Book Review

I just finished reading Ian McEwan’s 1987 novel The Child in Time. It’s the first of his books that I’ve read that I haven’t loved automatically. Yet, the book poses questions that still has me thinking about it days after I’ve finished reading it.

The Child in Time deals with a  compelling “McEwanesque” theme in which the protaganist’s life is irrevocably change by a single act not of his own doing. In this case, Stephen Lewis, a successful children’s author’s, three year old daughter disappears one Saturday morning when the two are grocery shopping. His attention is averted for less than a minute and when he looks up again, she’s gone. The extraordinary ordinariness of the events leading up to that horrific moment and how the rhythm of every day life resumes for everybody except him and his wife Julia, becomes the structure on which the narrative is based. Continue reading

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On Chesil Beach – Ian McEwan – Book Review

I just finished reading On Chesil Beach Ian McEwan’s latest novel and loved it as much as I have his other more recent but larger works, Saturday and Atonement. The themes that underpin his larger works are evident in spades in this compelling love story. Here MacEwan explores how the lives of two ordinary people are irrevocably changed through a moment of indecision.

Set in Britain in the early sixties, it chronicles the relationship between Edward and Florence, two young lovers from very different worlds. Edward grew up in the English country side where “the beds were never made, the sheets rarely changed,” the bathroom never cleaned, his mother absent. Florence, an aspiring classical musician, grew up in a well-to-do family that skied, played tennis and served bouillabaise, and exotic cheeses. He loves pubs, she loves concerts.

Yet, the differences that separate them is overcome by love that at least for a time, has the capacity to bridge their social worlds. So much so that even though it’s clear that Florence has an inability to deal with physical intimacy and indeed is repulsed by it neither of them venture a discussion concerning it during their year long courtship. Instead Edward choses to believe, albeit frustratingly, that Florence’s modesty will dissolve with the safety and security of marriage. But what Florence feels, is in fact, sheer terror and revulsion at the thought of the consummation of their marriage that only continues to build as their wedding day approaches. Florence regards the mere thought of intimacy with “a visceral dread, a helpless disgust as palpable as seasickness.”

It’s no surprise of course, that their wedding night is a disaster. But what makes this story so compelling is MacEwan’s ability to lay bear the elaborate ritual of love and repulsion, the tension between marriage and obligation, trust and ego. Although there is a reference that perhaps Florence had suffered some abuse this isn’t explored any further. What we have are two individuals who ‘love’ each other but don’t essentially know each other. And at the critical moment when they must lay themselves bare she suffers a failure of courage and he allows his ego to betray his heart. This time love can’t save them.

Although Florence and Edward aren’t exactly products of the Victorian age, neither are they a part of the pop culture/sexual revolution that was already starting to take the western world by storm. But even if they were, would that have made any difference at all? What McEwan explores so beautifully is what lies at the heart of being human; that we are flawed and that it is this that sets the course of our incomplete lives.

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Atonement by Ian McEwan: Book Review

I find that when I pick up one of Ian McEwan’s books, I can’t put it down until I’m done much, much later. I have read Enduring Love, Saturday and recently finished Atonement.   Continue reading

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