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Solar (New York Times Notable Books)

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Solar (New York Times Notable Books) Cover

ISBN13: 9780307739537
ISBN10: 0307739538
Condition: Standard
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Reading Group Guide

1. Beard loves physics in part because he believes that it is “free of human taint” (p. 10). In what ways does the novel complicate this belief? In what sense is Beard’s own work “tainted” by human entanglements?

2. The narrative structure of Solar is mostly chronological. What effects does McEwan achieve by occasionally departing from a straightforward chronological progression?

3. Beard claims he does not believe in the possibility of “profound inner change” (p. 77). Does he remain unchanged over the course of the novel?

4. How does McEwan manage to make Beard such a sympathetic character despite his many foibles? What are his most salient character flaws?

5. Why is Beard so attached to preserving what he calls his “unshareable core”? (p. 307). Why does he find it impossible to tell Melissa that he loves her? Why do his marriages keep falling apart?

6. In what ways is Solar a satirical novel? What are its main satirical targets? How, for example, do postmodernists come off in the book?

7. What are some of the funniest moments in Solar? How does McEwan create such brilliant comedic effects?

8. Look at the encounters between art and science in the novel, those occasions when Beard squares off with people from the humanities—novelists, folklorists, postmodern feminists, etc. Who gets the better of these confrontations? Is the book as a whole making a point through its depiction of these encounters?

9. What is the significance of the entropy in the boot room on board the ship that is holding the conference on climate change? What does this chaos and carelessness suggest about humanity’s ability to stop global warming?

10. Beard has a remarkably clear conscience; he is largely untroubled by his affairs and deceits, his theft of Aldous’s ideas, his framing of Tarpin, etc. Why is he so free of the guilt that might afflict most other men?

11. Several times during the course of the novel it appears that public infamy—born of journalists’ insatiable desire for controversy and Beard’s own willingness to step into it—will doom Beard’s career. What enables him to emerge from these disasters relatively unscathed? Will he be as lucky getting out of the mess he’s created at the very end of the book?

12. How surprising is the ending of the novel, particularly the final sentence? What is the swelling sensation that Beard feels in his heart as his daughter approaches him? What is likely to happen to Beard next?

13. How does the appendix containing the presentation speech for Beard’s Nobel Prize alter the way Beard is finally viewed? Why would McEwan choose to attach this appendix to the body of the novel?

14. Solar is in many ways a picaresque and at times farcical novel, and yet it also engages a theme of major importance—global warming. What is the connection between personal and planetary catastrophe in the novel, between the meltdown of Beard’s personal and professional life and the kind of greed, dishonesty, rationalization, and failure to face facts that has resulted in the climate crisis? What is the significance, in this context, of Beard’s inability to moderate his eating habits and his sexual pursuits?

15. What does Solar contribute to our understanding of climate change?

(For a complete list of available reading group guides, and to sign up for the Reading Group Center e-newsletter, visit www.readinggroupcenter.com.)

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 3 comments:

Clarity, January 2, 2012 (view all comments by Clarity)
McEwan's writing is spectacular, as always.
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W S Krauss, October 29, 2011 (view all comments by W S Krauss)
Michael Beard, physicist and womanizer, is resting on his laurels after winning the Nobel Prize decades ago. He lets life happen to him and we are along for the ride. An accident in his home provides him the means and opportunity to advance his floundering career and enables him to work on a project that could save the world from climate change. I found myself quite fond of Beard, even though he sabatages everything in his life. He never learns from his mistakes and remains true to himself to the very end. This was my fourth Ian McEwan novel and, I think, my favorite.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
W S Krauss, October 29, 2011 (view all comments by W S Krauss)
Michael Beard, physicist and womanizer, is resting on his laurels after winning the Nobel Prize decades ago. He lets life happen to him and we are along for the ride. An accident in his home provides him the means and opportunity to advance his floundering career and enables him to work on a project that could save the world from climate change. I found myself quite fond of Beard, even though he sabatages everything in his life. He never learns from his mistakes and remains true to himself to the very end. This was my fourth Ian McEwan novel and, I think, my favorite.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(0 of 1 readers found this comment helpful)
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780307739537
Author:
Mcewan, Ian
Publisher:
Anchor Books
Author:
McEwan, Ian
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Subject:
fiction;climate change;novel;science;global warming;british;england;physics;uk;satire;contemporary fiction;contemporary;21st century;london;literature;scientists;english literature;british literature;new mexico;adultery;energy;solar power;environment;scie
Subject:
fiction;climate change;science;novel;global warming;british;england;physics;uk;satire;contemporary fiction;contemporary;21st century;london;scientists;british literature;literature;english literature;new mexico;adultery;energy;british fiction;environment;
Subject:
fiction;climate change;science;novel;global warming;british;england;physics;uk;satire;contemporary fiction;contemporary;21st century;london;scientists;british literature;literature;english literature;new mexico;adultery;energy;british fiction;environment;
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
20110331
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
352
Dimensions:
28 x 13 x 4.5 in 12.5 lb

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Solar (New York Times Notable Books) Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$8.95 In Stock
Product details 352 pages Anchor Books - English 9780307739537 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

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!

"Synopsis" by , Michael Beard is a Nobel Prize-winning physicist (and compulsive overeater) 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 halfheartedly heads a government-backed initiative tackling global warming. Meanwhile, Michael’s fifth marriage is floundering due to his incessant womanizing. When his professional and personal worlds collide in a freak accident, an opportunity presents itself for Michael to extricate himself from his marital problems, reinvigorate his career, and save the world from environmental disaster. But 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-deception, Solar is a startling, witty, and stylish new work—Ian McEwan at his finest.

 

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