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Solar Paperback – 3 Mar 2011

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (3 Mar. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099549026
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099549024
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (235 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 28,742 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ian McEwan is a critically acclaimed author of short stories and novels for adults, as well as The Daydreamer, a children's novel illustrated by Anthony Browne. His first published work, a collection of short stories, First Love, Last Rites, won the Somerset Maugham Award. His novels include The Child in Time, which won the 1987 Whitbread Novel of the Year Award, The Cement Garden, Enduring Love, Amsterdam, which won the 1998 Booker Prize, Atonement, Saturday and On Chesil Beach.

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Review

"Savagely funny... Enormously entertaining...a stellar performance" (Sunday Times)

"A stunningly accomplished work, possibly his best yet...both funny and serious, light and dark, morally engaged and ironically detached" (Financial Times)

"A satirical masterpiece...it will come to be regarded as a classic" (Lorna Bradbury Daily Telegraph)

"Wonderfully enjoyable... He shows a side to himself as a writer - a puckishness, a broadness of humour, an extravagance of style - that we haven't seen before" (Sam Leith Spectator)

"McEwan has succeeded in producing a novel that is both profoundly serious and hilariously funny" (Mail on Sunday)

Book Description

An engrossing, satirical and very funny novel on climate change - an international bestseller.

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Customer Reviews

3.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Timothy W. Dumble on 14 July 2011
Format: Paperback
Politics,physics and environmentalism are unlikely comedy bed partners but it is testimony to McEwan's ability that he has woven all three into an hilarious and dark satire which conveys an equally serious message about the mentality of humankind. Michael Beard is a convincingly real figure uncomfortably familiar to the reader at times,the personification of Humankind,self indulgent,unable to control his self destructive visceral urges,unable to save himself let alone the World.'Solar' is a powerful indictment of modern consumerism in which Beard lives for the moment, a sybarite seeking the short cut to success and hapiness,an amoral shadow of his former self.

Fans of McEwan should be warned that 'Solar' represents a very different read to some of his other work eg 'Amsterdam', Saturday' or 'On Chesil Beach'. The authentic and well researched science might not be to the taste of all readers although non scientists should persevere as they will enjoy the arts v science theme developed hilariously within.What it does contain however are many examples of McEwan's familiar talent in the art of the simile alongside a previously less demonstrated ability to deliver comic one liners with panache- none better than the dead polar bears quip.

Justice is seen to be done in the denouement with Beard's hubris and self delusion unravelling with comic results-will we also have time to experience a similar ephiphany with respect to global warming?Beard's inevitable demise is deliciously ironic coming as it will from his beloved solar photons.In the flawed humanity of Michael Beard 'Solar' asks how can we save the world when we can't even look after ourselves?
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Auntie Deadly on 18 Mar. 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
I didn't dislike this book; it's topical and funny. Ian McEwan has been criticised for taking a lot of artistic licence with the scientific theory, but I think that's fine. It's a work of fiction, after all, not a doctoral thesis. Beard is a strong enough central character and although the plot is lacking, the pace is good. But it does read like a series of metaphors in search of a story.

After many marital infidelities Beard is about to divorce his fifth wife. But on discovering that she doesn't appear to care and is, in fact, having an affair of her own, he develops an obsession with her and changes his mind. A Nobel Laureate, he hasn't done any serious science since winning his prize, but his name still spells fund money in the scientific world and he is not short of lucrative offers of one sort or another. He takes a high profile assignment with a government funded initiative committed to enlisting the public in the search for ideas to combat global warming.

He continues to obsess about his wife, but he lacks the emotional depth necessary to win her back. In a final bid to rid himself of his fixation he accepts an offer to join a group of climate change activists on an expedition to the Arctic Circle. He is ill-equipped, being fat, alcoholic, anti-social and completely uninterested in climate-change. He finds himself the only scientist in a group of artists, no climate changing ideas are forthcoming and everyone mislays their arctic outdoor gear, and so steals other people's, on a daily basis. Yes, you've guessed, it's a metaphor for global warming and the way in which we fail to take care of the resources which are most important to us. Very heavy handed on the metaphor front, but still a funny piece of prose.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By JaneyF on 22 April 2011
Format: Paperback
A perfect book for the beach as one can easily get immersed and entertained and equally easily put it down, saunter off and pick up a drink.

In many ways Beard, the protagonist, is dislikable as other reviewers have noted but Ian McEwan's tight and incredibly detailed writing means that the reader has huge insight into Beard's personality and not many characters ficitional or otherwise would emerge entirely likable under such scrutiny. I genuinely didn't find him as repugnant as others seemed to, in fact the cliff-hanger ending left me rooting for him and irritated that there wasn't a more decisive ending, many times in the book I felt genuine sympathy for him. He is clearly unprincipalled and makes at least two appalling decisions but then most people have at some stage; just not on this flagrantly morally bankrupt scale and this is presumably the allegory on global warming and our own part in it. I can't quite hate him.

It is McEwan's writing style that I particularly enjoy - sentences which you want to savour; the small nuances making the humour through the mundane and sometimes requiring a minute amount of unravelling giving you a small pinging satisfaction similar to having solved a crossword clue.

Sometimes this book made me laugh out loud and it constantly kept me engaged and I only wish I really knew what happened to the protagonist when the book closes - a little blurb on Wikipedia would be very helpful on this front!
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50 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Jeremy Williams on 17 Jan. 2011
Format: Paperback
Solar tells the story of Michael Beard, an overweight and aging physicist who won the Nobel prize twenty years ago and hasn't had an interesting idea since. He plays on his fame and drifts between speaking engagements and sinecures, his private life is a disastrous series of failed marriages.

That all changes when a freak accident leaves him in possession of a file full of brilliant ideas from a young post-grad, and claiming the work as his own, Beard sets out to build a new technology that will single-handedly solve the world's energy crisis and stop climate change.

I won't spoil it for you by saying any more about the story - not that there is much of a story. Like the protagonist, Solar sort of bumbles along, following Beard to the Arctic and back, to conferences, lectures, bored nights in motel rooms, until it suddenly picks up at the end as Beard's various mistakes all suddenly begin to catch up with him all at once.

Michael Beard is such a thoroughly unlikeable character that I nearly gave up halfway through, but there are enough flashes of humour or interesting observations about human nature to make it worth persevering. It's not a great book - the reviewers panning it here have a point. Much of the book is mundane, well written but rather empty and moping. Nothing of any real interest happens until a good third of the way in, and the ending is somewhat contrived. Nevertheless, it's a satire and McEwan is attempting something rather bold - exploring climate change through the lens of human nature. Read that way, I think McEwan pulls it off, although I do wonder what his established fans will make of it.
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