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Niagara on the Lake, Ontario, Canada
My virtue is that I say what I think, my vice that what I think doesn't amount to much.

Thursday, September 04, 2014


Solar is a satirical novel about dysfunctional Nobel prizewinning physicist, Michael Beard. The novel is written in three parts, the first of which takes place in 2000. Beard, at the age of 53, has been coasting on his scientific laurels for decades. He is a fat, self indulgent philanderer and his fifth marriage to the lovely Patrice is on the rocks because of his serial infidelities. To get back at him she is having an affair with their brutish builder and also with a young colleague of Beard's from the climate change research facility he nominally heads. He escapes his domestic and career woes by accepting an invitation to participate in an expedition to the Arctic to draw attention to the issue of global warming. He is the only scientist among a group of artists. This section is the funniest section of the book. When he returns the colleague who is cuckolding him ends up dead and Beard sets up his wife's other lover, the builder, to take the rap. It's all pretty ugly.
In 2005 Beard has lost his wife and his job and is living in an awful apartment. He's stolen the research of his young dead colleague, has taken credit for it and has managed to continue a career in the field of alternative energy despite accusations of sexism. He has a gorgeous, younger, undemanding girlfriend who falls pregnant. As usual he behaves abominably.
In 2009 Beard's is planning the grand opening of a photosynthesis plant in the New Mexico desert and his future looks bright until his nefarious actions of a decade earlier come back to destroy him. His plagiarism is revealed and the builder, newly released from prison takes his revenge.
Ian McEwan is a skilled writer and his wit is displayed to great advantage in this book. I have liked some of his books better than this one - the second half is stretched a bit too thin -  but it has moments of hilarity that make it worth reading, at least for this McEwan fan.

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