Amy Reads Books


Solar - Ian McEwan I had wanted to read Solar since its release last year, having really enjoyed Atonement. When I finally picked up a copy earlier this month I began it with some trepidation, having read some fairly mixed reviews online. However, despite the creation of one of the most unlikeable and unsympathetic protagonists that I've ever read, Solar is darkly, bitingly funny as it charts the rise and almost inevitable fall of its main character.It's hard to talk about Solar without mentioning the lead character, Michael Beard, in almost every sentence. Beard is an aging Nobel Prize winning physicist. His theory (something to do with Einstein) has made him hugely important in the physics world, a world he is becoming increasingly alienated from as a firm climate change sceptic. Plus, he is feeling irrelevant in his home life, as his fifth wife, Patrice, is having an affair-whereas it is previously he who holds the title of philandering partner (although he is not entirely innocent in the relationship). When a sudden tragedy occurs, Beard is given the opportunity to make himself suddenly relevant again; a journey McEwan charts in several jumps.As the reader, you become entirely submerged in Beard's view of the world. He is a character who is relentlessly greedy, for food (he eats all the time), for sex (he has sexual fantasies about every woman he meets, even the passport control officer) and, in a way, even for fame. Every additional character is described in a way that their attributes would be seen by Beard (which does mean that most of the descriptions of the women in the novel are fairly misogynistic) and even the world around him is described in pretty cynical terms; although with the help of McEwan's gorgeous prose.I was personally in awe of the way that McEwan could keep me engaged when I really hated the main character, I was pretty much rooting for Beard to fail throughout the novel; and yet I didn't want to put it down, constantly waiting for the next, slightly sickening, event that would take place. One of the criticisms I've seen placed on this book is the fact that apparently nothing happens; but I would really disagree with this. Plenty of things happen; although we only see them through the memories of Beard when he is (most likely) eating or sitting on an plane, and to me that was a far greater way to let us know what has happened in the intervening years.I also loved McEwan's way of vividly bringing to life the various settings of the novel; from the Article Circle, to quiet Midwestern American town, via contemporary London. As a reader you felt present in all of these places. My only real gripe with the novel was its lack of scientific explanations; as someone who hasn't done 'proper' science for a good few years, some of the ideas raised went a bit over my head.In my opinion its a great read that reflects on the state of society today (I loved the mention of the expenses scandal) and has a brilliant central character, despite his totally unsympathetic nature.