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Solar Hardcover


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Product details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Nan A. Talese
  • ASIN: B006QS132Y
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16.3 x 3.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (225 customer reviews)

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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Customer Reviews

3.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 53 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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170 of 193 people found the following review helpful By Niall Alexander on 22 Mar 2010
Format: Hardcover
Only a hundred pages into the latest novel from perhaps the greatest living British writer do you begin to grasp the conflict at the core of Solar. As with the vast majority of McEwan's fiction, the narrative turns on a single, earth-shattering event that rips out the rug from under its protagonist. In Solar, the game-changer occurs upon sometime Nobel laureate Michael Beard's return from a week observing first-hand the effects of climate change in the Arctic circle - which is to say, drinking copious quantities of wine and inventing amusing anecdotes to recount at a later date.

Eager for the comforts of hearth and home, Beard returns to London on an early flight only to find one of his research students in his luxurious apartment, naked but for Beard's own dressing gown. The philandering physicist isn't surprised to find his fifth - count 'em - wife with another man, but when Beard confronts the intruder, an already precarious situation develops into a farce of tragic proportions.

Beard is perhaps McEwan's most repellent protagonist to date, and considering the murderers, paedophiles and pimply teenagers who have narrated some of his previous tales, that's saying something. Beard is old, fat and full of himself; he eats, cheats and greets. He is "scalded by public disgrace... corrupted by a whiff of failure [and] consumed by his cranky affair with sunbeams". His inner monologue invariably borders on the unspeakable, by turns racist, lecherous and homophobic.

But Beard's greatest sin is surely his appetite - and I don't merely mean his enduring love for salt and vinegar crisps, though you get the sense that habit alone will see him in an early grave. From the outset, he consumes. He has consumed five wives, the latest of whom outright detests him.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By E Mack on 12 April 2011
Format: Paperback
Just glancing at the star ratings for this book and I can see why the reception is so mixed. It's no spoiler to say the book ends on a huge cliff hanger and that is massively frustrating for the reader. However I can't agree with people saying that the fundamental problem lies in the dislike-ability of the protagonist. Yes he's an ass, in the style of a Martin Amis character, but this does not make the novel any less readable. A very weird read but certainly one worth persevering with; I personally did not get bored half way through. I rarely have time to finish a book these days but I finished this.
I should add that for those of you who are fans of Atonement, do not expect the same treatment here. This is a very modern novel in the vein of David Lodge or Martin Amis as opposed to the slightly sepia-toned atmosphere of McEwan's other works.
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30 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Jl Adcock TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 12 Nov 2010
Format: Hardcover
If you compare the professional reviews of "Solar" with the more realistic views expressed my many Amazon reviewers here, it's fair to say that this isn't a great book in the opinion of many. And I would have to agree. "Solar" is quite a short novel by today's standards, but it reads like a very long one indeed. McEwan presents us with a detailed and ultimately pointless story of Michael Beard, a Noble Prize-winning scientist who over the duration of the book (2000, 2005, 2009) continues a journey of self-destructive abuse, juggling career and personal disasters in equal measure. Indeed it reads more like 3 linked short stories about the same unlikeable man than as a novel.

It's done with the usual McEwan attention to detail and sharp writing. But apparently this time (according to some) we also get humour. If that's the case then it certainly completely eluded my reading of the book. Sure, there were over-laboured attempts and being funny, but that's not the same as effortless humour. This is something that McEwan doesn't bring to his books, any lightness of touch or self-depracation is lost in the po-faced, technical writing that outlines his characters and the dilemmas they find themselves in.

Usually, McEwan gets his books off to interesting, tantalising starts and then loses interest and ends them with weak conclusions. This time, he seems to start off as he means to continue: with a turgid and uninteresting story about an unlikeable main character that tells us much about greed and avarice and the backbiting, snippy world of science, but it just doesn't go anywhere. Anyone else penning such stuff would find it hard to get published. That McEwan has managed to garner such lavish praise for such mediocre work tells you much about the gulf that exists between what readers really think, and what paid reviewers in the newspapers want you to believe.

A really dreary book that I was relieved to finish.
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