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Solar by Ian McEwan

July 26, 2010

Back in February I learned that Ian McEwan’s newest novel Solar would be released in March and I was excited to read it.  I really liked On Chesil Beach and thought Amsterdam was interesting, so I hoped that the green tech aspect of Solar combined with McEwan’s writing style would make for a fantastic read.  I didn’t not like the book, but I was a little disappointed.

The novel focuses on physics expert Michael Beard, who is a serial husband, cheater, liar and all around unlikable guy.  He gets involved with an organization focusing on solar energy even though he has little interest in saving the world.  Through a series of random events, he begins work on a solar energy plan that involves photosynthesis. I didn’t care for Michael Beard, but I don’t think McEwan wants us to.  The book works well even if we dislike the main character and in a way are routing for his failure.  I was often annoyed that things worked out so well for him when all I really wanted was for him to fail miserably.

I like to read McEwan.  His writing style is great and he tells the best stories.  There was one scene on a train with potato chips that left me laughing out loud,  completely shocked and utterly engaged.  Scenes like that make me love McEwan and the way he tells a story.  But through other parts of this book, I found myself bored and skimming.  The endless details on photons, electrons and photosynthesis just didn’t do it for me.  Even some of the long-winded descriptions of the characters left me skimming.  I don’t remember feeling that way with his other novels, but the two I’ve read were considerably shorter than Solar.

I don’t think Solar lived up to my expectations, but it certainly wasn’t a bad read.  I’d say borrow this one from the library if you have some time but don’t send it to the top of your “to read” list.

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