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SOLAR [Hardcover]

Ian McEwan
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Superb Writing May 28 2010
By Samantha TOP 500 REVIEWER
Ian McEwan is a great writer because each novel has its own distinctive style. In Solar, he delights with a wry depiction of Michael Beard, Nobel Prize winning physicist, a buffoon who stumbles into success and flails about trying to remain important. He is not an endearing protagonist, but I found his story, living on the edge of immorality, highly enjoyable. While not a comedy per se, there are a number of comical incidents that are laugh out loud funny. Although the novel centers around global warming and its politics, I did not find it dry. It was an engaging read.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Ian McEwan:Solar. June 9 2014
By Hana
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you were rushing to a bookstore or a library to obtain this "savagely funny" and "enormously entertaining" book, as the advertising on the cover calls it, you will be well advised to slowdown and think again.
This book is funny close to the beginning. There are dirty jokes, for men, by a man, and on men, particularly middle aged ones. Then, later, the description how the politically correct hysterics resulted would be funny, if it were not literally true and actually frightening.
Our hero is not only a scientist and a holder of the Nobel Prize, but also first class Don Juan. I might believe that he could have had even more sexual encounters than mentioned, but not about four relationships a year, while married. A relationship needs some time, while getting entangled and disentangled, and ending it all, unless, of course, he carried more than two relationships at the same time.
This book is about creating energy from water and solar energy. It is very educated and well researched.
But there is still a possibility that the whole book is a joke. On us, on the author, and on novel writing generally.
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Format:Kindle Edition
Micheal Beard, four times divorced and having too much time to contemplate the collapse of his fifth marriage, is introduced to us with Ian McEwan's unique brush stroke; Beard attributed a rich mixture of foibles, perhaps so rich that in the amassing of his traits, I am a little lost in the welter of detail or else mildly irritated that the pace is put on hold until Beard is fully built. It is as if we are immediately presented by the whole album that describes Beard, rather than just those few snapshopts which would, the more fluously, unravel his essence without loss of pace.

Perhaps I should not dare to criticise a writer from whose writing I otherwise usually get such great satisfaction and, for the rest of the book, I'm relieved to say, I don't have to dare; for again I am drawn by the incisiveness of the snapshots themselves. For instance, in describing Beard we learn of his marriages being "... tidal, with one rolling out, just before another rolled in." This sound like a metaphor for the inevitability of his marital failure while also implying the loneliness of one man confronted by an ocean full of lady-fish but none staying long enough for him to savour; none long enough, for him to experience what McEwan might elsewhere call "enduring love."

Yet, despite Beard's hapless marriages and the mild disgust I felt for the "vaguely unprepossessing, often bald, short, fat" and "clever" man, nevertheless, I couldn't help feeling a scintilla of pity for him as he at last confronts/repents at leisure with a consuming sense of "shame" and is ultimately reduced to a sort of "sexual masochism"; in that "No woman had ever looked or sounded so desirable as the wife [No. 5] who he suddenly could not have" while she was busy with another affair.
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14 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Shivering, baking, drowning, dying of thirst? March 22 2010
By Friederike Knabe TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Ian McEwan is not just talking about the vagaries of contemporary weather patterns and how they affect human beings. With his new novel, SOLAR he intends to take us right into the middle of climate change politics. Really? Michael Beard, the rather unattractive and pathetic little rotund man in the centre of the novel, goes through all these physical sensations and a few more, figuratively speaking, when it comes to his obsessions with the pleasures of a man's life. In this long awaited and much rumoured about latest novel, McEwan has embarked into a new direction: exploring a serious and still controversial global issue in a less serious, somewhat satirical, way building on his great competencies as an author who exposes the frailties of human beings in the face of smaller or larger challenges.

Beard, while a surprise Physics Nobel laureate in his youth, has not has done much of any importance since and lives off his early reputation. "All the excitement and unpredictability was in the private life..." Beard muses at the beginning of the novel. Since then "two decades had passed since he last sat down in silence and solitude for hours on end, pencil and pad in hand, to so some thinking, to have an original hypothesis, play with it, pursue it, tease it to life... He had no new ideas".

We meet McEwan's anti-hero during three time periods: 2000, 2005 and 2009. In 2000 Michael Beard is fifty three and on his faltering fifth marriage, when he is completely devastated by the discovery that he is not the only one having affairs... While his sex life has fully recovered by 2005, the women are less stunningly beautiful, yet are able to satisfy his needs thanks to other qualities.
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