Chandran, January 2, 2011 (view all comments by Chandran)
This is a book that washes over you and has you chuckling and wondering in turn. The story is absorbing, but it is the writing, which once again, keeps the reader enthralled.
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JLB9698, June 13, 2010 (view all comments by JLB9698)
Solar..another one of Ian McEwan's gifts to us! A book for all the intellectual snobs who can appreciate the comic irony of the distasteful and self centered, 53 year old physicist Michael Beard, whose ambition is to save the world from a portending global warming disaster. The book is masterful in the usual McEwan fashion. Besides all of this.... where else can you find the words "conflation" and "sinecure" used in the same sentence?
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cariola119, April 16, 2010 (view all comments by cariola119)
Ian McEwan does it again! Solar is a hilarious, intellectual romp for our times. It's a satire that aims its shots in many directions: at the narrow worlds of academia and scientific research; at the New Age, hug-a-tree, love-can-save-the-world philosophy; at the idealism of the young and the cynicism of their elders; at the wheeling and dealing behind corporate American enterprise; at the inexplicable nature of love and its counterpart, lust.
Michael Beard, a Nobel prize-winning physicist, has been sitting on his laurels for years, working half-heartedly for a British energy center that sees wind energy as the future, spending more time mocking the "ponytails" (the young post-grad physicists who work under him) than developing new theories or resources. In his spare time, Beard has lumbered his way through five marriages and numerous affairs, and his penchant for alcohol, beef, pancakes, and crisps have added more weight to his physical profile than his professional one.
But then things start to happen--call them accidents or fate or coincidences, or just plain old opportunities. And Michael Beard is there to pick up the pieces and use them to his best advantage.
I had no idea that McEwan could be quite so funny. Several of the scenes, including the one on the Paddington train alluded to by others, had me actually laughing out loud.
I listened to an interview in which McEwan discussed his research process (which included not only reading about global warming and renewable energy but an extended stay in New Mexico and an arctic trip with a group of artists and scientists) and the fact that he has already been approached by a number of physicists who claim they know upon whom he based the character of Beard (he claims it was his own creation, but that it's probably a "good thing" there are so many likely Beards out there rather than just one).
Overall, Solar is a smart, funny, and perceptive novel about our times, and I highly recommend it. Don't expect it to be another Atonement or On Chesil Beach; McEwan is attempting something entirely different here, and you will have to be willing to take it on its own terms.
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Craig Ensz, April 7, 2010 (view all comments by Craig Ensz)
A good and timely story for the state of world affairs today. A tale of a man with confused personal issues with women and affairs, Mcewan weaves a tale that brings mystery, current world problems and statement on society that will make the reader think as well as enjoy the story.
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Nan A. Talese -
Solar is a fascinating look at one man's hubris in both his personal life — with five wives and many more lovers — and his professional life as a Nobel Prize-winning physicist working on the problems of global warming. With engaging science and intelligent wit, Solar is a different and interesting offering from McEwan.
Ian McEwan's latest offering, Solar, is a departure from his serious side. The main character, Professor Michael Beard, is an aging, pompous, and ridiculous Nobel-winning physicist who is far past his prime. He is one messed up fellow who sits comfortably on the laurels of his discovery many, many years previous. He is duplicitous, self-obsessed, arrogant, and greedy. Yet Beard is one of the funniest characters I've ever come across, and even though the laughs are mostly at his expense, that somehow doesn't make you despise him. McEwan can do serious, tragic, obsessive, morbid, and poignant better than most writers, but it is a delightful surprise to discover that he can do humor as well. This is a wonderful book that somehow is exceedingly deeper than it appears on the surface!
"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"Booker Prize — winner McEwan (On Chesil Beach; Atonement) once again deploys domestic strife to examine the currents of worldwide change. This time, McEwan shoots for the sun, with the promise of solar energy gradually legitimizing itself in the mind of Nobel Prize — winning physicist Michael Beard. While Bush v. Gore drags on across the Atlantic and Beard's fifth marriage dissolves in an adulterous haze, the waning laureate rides his reputation to a cushy position at a U.K. climate research center, where he is generally disdainful of his younger colleagues. Then, following an epiphany of sorts, Beard pins the accidental death of a rival scientist on his wife's lover and steals the other man's research. By 2009, Beard is in New Mexico, riding high on ill-gotten funding and patents and within sight of a curious redemption. Beard is a fascinatingly repulsive protagonist, but he can't sustain a novel broken up by fast-forwards (all of which require tedious backstories) and a stream of overwritten courtships. The scientific material is absorbing, but the interpersonal portions are much less so — troublesome, since McEwan seems to prefer the latter — making for an inconsistent novel that one finishes feeling unpleasantly glacial." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review A Day"
by Hephzibah Anderson, Bloomberg.com,
"The novel opens in 2000; Beard is 53. His professional life has become a swirl of lecture junkets, media punditry and state-funded sinecures. His private life is what consumes most of his energy. Unaccountably attractive to women, he's five years into his fifth marriage — time enough to have crammed in 11 affairs. Then his wife retaliates by bedding their builder." (Read the entire Bloomberg.com review)
by Sunday Times,
"A comedy every bit as brilliant as its title might suggest...Blazing with imaginative and intellectual energy, Solar is a stellar performance."
"[W]here Solar really succeeds — beyond the dark comedy... is the author's ability to reveal the nature of the climate conundrum in the very human life of his protagonist."
by Financial Times,
"A stunningly accomplished work, possibly [McEwan's] best yet."
Can a man who has made a mess of his life clean up the messes of humanity? A complex novel that brilliantly traces the arc of one man's ambitions and deceptions, Solar is a startling, witty new work from the author of On Chesil Beach and Atonement.
The literary event of the season: a new novel from Ian McEwan, as surprising as it is masterful.
Michael Beard is a Nobel prize–winning physicist whose best work is behind him. Trading on his reputation, he speaks for enormous fees, lends his name to the letterheads of renowned scientific institutions, and half-heartedly heads a government-backed initiative tackling global warming. While he coasts along in his professional life, Michael’s personal life is another matter entirely. His fifth marriage is crumbling under the weight of his infidelities. But this time the tables are turned: His wife is having an affair, and Michael realizes he is still in love with her.
When Michael’s personal and professional lives begin to intersect in unexpected ways, an opportunity presents itself in the guise of an invitation to travel to New Mexico. Here is a chance for him to extricate himself from his marital problems, reinvigorate his career, and very possibly save the world from environmental disaster. Can a man who has made a mess of his life clean up the messes of humanity?
A complex novel that brilliantly traces the arc of one man’s ambitions and self-deceptions, Solar is a startling, witty, and stylish new work from one of the world’s great writers.
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