Sunday, January 9, 2011

Review of Solar by Ian McEwan

Hi all,

I have not read any other Ian McEwan novels. I gather his other novels are serious dramas, whereas Solar was more of a tongue in cheek comedy. I never laughed out loud, but none the less I found it amusing as the pompous, insular, brilliant and sometimes inept main character schemed his way out of a number of awkward situations. One scene where is he trying to urinate in 20 below zero temperatures is very memorable.

Michael Beard is its central character. He has spent much of his life living off his fame after winning a noble prize for physics in his early twenties. He is constantly asked to be on boards, make paid speeches, lecture etc, while producing very little new research. Then one day he is asked to join the board of a research facility trying to find solutions to climate change. Fate then hands him the process of converting water into hydrogen using solar power, the ultimate clean energy.

Meanwhile his hectic private life of four marriages continues. He is so self-absorbed, and fat and unhealthy to boot, it is hard to believe that so many women want to have relationships with him, but they do. He thinks it is because they all want to convert him to a loving, sharing person. Instead he spends much of his time in hypocritical anger as his wives mirror his unfaithfulness.

In the end his lies bring his life crashing down, and put back the cause of fighting climate change. Much the way the lies form self-serving countries destroyed the Copenhagen climate change conference. I think that was the simile McEwan was aiming at.

I have followed the climate change debate for decades and nearly all of the climate change information mentioned in the novel sounded correct to me. I had not heard that Americans are busy buying up land in colder areas of Canada though, I suspect that could be self-servingly true.

A short novel (yaaa for short novels) it was an enjoyable read, even though the main character was larger than life.

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