Solar – Ian McEwan

November 18, 2012 at 11:55 | Posted in books | Leave a comment
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This book had been on the shelf since Christmas, and although Mrs Chillikebab had read it, I hadn’t got around to it – until now. McEwan always makes for an interesting and entertaining read, and this book is no exception.

It’s a very very dark (pretty much black) comedy that revolves around the central character, Michael Beard. He is a most unlikeable man – a solipsistic, obese philanderer who coasts through life on the glory of a Nobel Prize won as a young man.

He ends up in charge of a government research institute investigating climate change, and along the way (thanks to the work of a brilliant young graduate) discovers a mechanism that will deliver cheap, workable solar energy.

The science in the book is impeccable and adds authenticity to the novel, although to my mind does not dominate the story and is peripheral to the plot. Mrs Chillikebab disagreed, and thought the whole thing felt like a vehicle for McEwan to show off his research. Your mileage may vary.

There are a few moments of real slapstick comedy, but for the most part the humour edges more towards ‘uncomfortable’ than ‘funny’. There are also a few weak points in the story; the extended section when beard goes to the Arctic feels overdone and interrupts the flow of the novel rather.

These are minor gripes, however – I enjoyed the book. The ending is abrupt but satisfying (to me at least; other reviewers have felt a bit short-changed), and the intertwined threads of all the characters come together at the climax is worthy of an Ayckbourn play.

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