A few weekends ago I finished Solar by Ian McEwan. I started the book on accident. Okay, not really on accident, but kind of by surprise. Here is what I mean …

I stopped at the library on my way home from work a few weeks back to return a book (Freak the Mighty). I was pleasantly surprised to find the library still open. It was a Tuesday, the glorious day when the library stays open until 8:00. I knew that something was waiting for me, I saw an email come through my inbox but didn’t pay too close attention to it. To my surprise, on the hold shelf, was Ian McEwan’s new book Solar. I often put books on my request list and then forget about them, so it is always a surprise when they arrive.

I have been a fan of Ian McEwan since I read Amsterdam my sophomore year in college. Next on my McEwan reading list was Atonement. Both Amsterdam and Atonement have great stories that lead to unexpected endings. These two books were followed by Saturday and On Chesil Beach, both of which I was very excited for and somewhat let down by, especially the later. I had high expectations for Solar, and was excited to read it. McEwan is a great story-teller, and the story behind Solar kept my attention the entire time. I’m just not sure that it was my favorite of his books (but maybe this is what happens when you over-hype a book in your head, because I really did like the book).

Here is the synopsis from B&

Michael Beard is a Nobel prize–winning physicist whose best work is behind him. Trading on his reputation, he speaks for enormous fees, lends his name to the letterheads of renowned scientific institutions, and half-heartedly heads a government-backed initiative tackling global warming. While he coasts along in his professional life, Michael’s personal life is another matter entirely. His fifth marriage is crumbling under the weight of his infidelities. But this time the tables are turned: His wife is having an affair, and Michael realizes he is still in love with her.

When Michael’s personal and professional lives begin to intersect in unexpected ways, an opportunity presents itself in the guise of an invitation to travel to New Mexico. Here is a chance for him to extricate himself from his marital problems, reinvigorate his career, and very possibly save the world from environmental disaster. Can a man who has made a mess of his life clean up the messes of humanity?

Michael Beard at once repulsed and fascinated me. I wanted him to pull his life together, lose the weight that so often got in his way, and create a solar installation that would change the course of the world. At the same time I wanted him to fail miserably. I wanted his self-centered, egotistical identity to blow-up in his face. It is this type of fascinating character that McEwan creates and that draws me to his books.

Solar ends in an odd way – at least it was odd to me. Michael Beard has followed the trajectory of his life and finds himself at an impasse. Without giving away the ending, I think part of the reason I did not appreciate the way McEwan concluded the book is because I don’t have kids.

Overall, I would recommend Solar. It was quick to get into and read, and at the same time interesting and intriguing.

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