Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Post 30: Solar by Ian McEwan

Happy Easter to you!  We enjoyed the typical English weather over the weekend, when the wind and rain of "Katie" blew through Sunday and into Monday.  She obviously wanted something from our shed, as she blew it a few inches backwards, resulting in bolted and locked doors being swung wide open and drenching everything inside. She wasn't clever enough to get the contents out, but she did throw a chair, a wheelie bin and a water butt lid around the garden!

Easter Holidays must mean more reading, and I used an hour this morning to stay tucked up in bed Solar whilst hubby provided me with tea on his way out to work.  Finishing this one was a bit of an endurance test.  I don't know why I am incapable of giving up on a book I'm not enjoying; I feel that I must see something through to completion. I also thought it might look bad if I only wrote half a blog about it!

I have to say at the outset that I think Ian McEwan must be a bit of a genius. This is because there is no predicting the man...You don't know what you are going to get with a McEwan title.  So I loved Atonement, Saturday, Sweet Tooth, Enduring Love and Children Act.  I was disappointed by the cynicism in Chesil Beach and I hated Solar! The novels are all distinct and there seems to be nothing that marks them as trademark McEwan except good writing.  This means that I eagerly anticipate a good read and am sometimes disappointed.

That was certainly the case with Solar.  The blurb on the front cover states that it is "savagely funny"; I disagree.  The frozen member was amusing, but other than that, it didn't raise much of a smile from me.  The "satirical masterpiece" cited by the Daily Telegraph  on the back cover is true in as much as it is satirical, but for me, it is too obvious to be a masterpiece.

The protagonist, Michael Beard is odious.  This may be where my problem lies.  I felt no empathy with the vile little man at all. This must be deliberate, but it made for very hard reading.  The other characters are all flat, so none of the supporting cast provided any root in credibility.  They were all stock characters in a modern scientific field.

I may have confessed before that I have spawned an offspring that delights not in the powers of reading.  Parental failure.  But I had thought Solar might be more for her than for me.  Michael Beard, the central character is a physicist, (as is she).  He has achieved acclaim through a scientific discovery made in his twenties that resulted in him gaining a Nobel Prize.  There are a lot of pages dedicated to science, to light, to well...physics really, but I don't even think the science would make this novel worth recommending to my reluctant reader of fiction. It was just too laboured, almost as if Ian McEwan wanted us to see how much research he had done. I didn't feel this with Henry Perowne, the neurosurgeon in Saturday. In that novel, his job is part of who he is, and though clearly researched, it was much more naturally conceived...or maybe I just liked Perowne....

I want to say that Beard was interested in saving the planet through his work on alternative energy, but I can't.  Beard is only ever interested in Beard, which is, I'm sure, the point of the humour.  He is immoral, overweight, cheating, greedy and not above criminality in his desire to boost his own self image. If this novel is a social commentary on modern life, we all need to run for cover.

The ending is fitting, but no spoilers here, (if any of you are going to go on and read it after I have slated it).

It is clear that I did not enjoy this book, but it will not put me off McEwan per se.  It is part of his skill that he writes so differently each time.

And on to something very different. My next post will be about Jubilee by Shelley Harris. I've read the opening chapters, and it is very good so far!

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