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And I'm clearly not talking about blood and guts here. Solar sits you down and serves you scotch in the mind's armchair of Prof. Michael Beard, Nobel Prize winning scientist, opportunist and everyday scoundrel. Entertaining because it's funny - he is a true rogue and gentleman, and squeamish because despite your better judgement you'll be on Beard's side. Mostly because you've silently recognised the rogue in yourself. Surely that's not just me?
There are those who call this the most self concious novel in a string of particularly successful books and perhaps there's truth to that. But Solar is well written, well read, and will in parts raise more than a smile.
Blurring the boundaries between fiction, hearsay and fact, there's plenty to sink your teeth (ears?) into. Thoroughly modern, thoroughly enjoyable.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
"Solar" far exceeded my high expectations. I consider myself an experienced reader of McEwan's novels, having gone through the excellent "Amsterdam", "Enduring Love" and "Saturday". In my opinion, "Solar" is the best among this impressive peer group of novels. I might be prejudiced, as green technology is one of my areas of interest, but it is not just the excellent insights on technology that make this book truly Great. Professor Michael Beard's character is a dramatic one, at times reminding me of tragic Shakespearean protagonists.
Beard is a man with a cognitive claim to fame (his Nobel Prize) that is quickly gathering dust, and who more than offsets this achievement by pretty much screwing up everything else in his life: obesity, lack of social intelligence, marriages and breakups, cover-ups of his vile deeds, general "untidyness", etc.
As usual (he's done similar things in earlier novels), McEwan introduces a dramatic plot turn that is defining the rest of the novel. After that, the decay of Michael Beard seems to accelerate.
A great novel with a nice structure incorporating flashbacks, well narrated in the audiobook version, and ending with an insightful interview with the author.
I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
I've enjoyed all of the Ian McEwan books I have listened to and this is one of the best. He combines really clever writing with a liking for macabre plot twists and dark humour. There are some excellent set-pieces in the novel, my favourites being his descriptions of a nasty accident on a snow-mobile and of a stand-off over a packet of salt and vinegar crisps. The narrator did an excellent job. It is hard to find fault with this book if you are a fan.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
Like a coordinated air strike, Ian McEwan tries to reach many different targets in his new novel. As the interview with the writer included with the audio-book reveals, solar was going to be from the very beginning a novel about global warming. However although McEwan is a known proselytizer in this area, the characters in the novel are equivocal, until self interest and nothing more causes them to change sides. The central character of the book is a Nobel prize winning physicist who is trading on his former reputation both in the lecture room and in his personal life, and it is in the latter area in which he has problems as the book opens with his latest wife conducting her own extra marital experiments. The cleverly constructed story includes a great amount of accurate detail about contemporary physics as well as borrowing elements used in thrillers. The plot is an international as a James Bond novel, moving from suburban home county intrigues, a polar expedition, a South American experimental site and a North American trailer park. The more enjoyable sections would be the unintentional consequences of being caught short in sub zero temperatures, and a naive comment about gender predispositions leading to vilification in all sections of the press.
Roger Allam is a perfect choice for a reader of this novel. He portrays the worldly, self interested central character extremely well and his voice is well suited to McEwans slightly misanthropic and detached narrative.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful