Atonement, Saturday and On Chesil Beach was some run of novels, particularly since after choosing to stay with Ian McEwan following the damp squibs that were Enduring Love and Amsterdam. Sadly he couldn’t make it four in a row with Solar.
The central character is Michael Beard a theoretical physicist turned climate change entrepreneur who, over the course of the novels three sections grows increasingly obese and more grotesque. He’s a less than subtle metaphor for humanity’s inability to control its consumption or its physical urges even in the light of impending doom.
Beard is nobel laureate who has lived off the fruit of the award for decades without developing anything new. His is a serial adulterer, destroying five marriages in the process, and in the endgame of number five we get the familiar McEwan extraordinary event upon which a world turns.
McEwan is renowned for meticulous research and this doesn’t disappoint, and he tries to lighten the tone by playing Beard for laughs, but I don’t think he carries it off. Not least I think, because there is just nothing attractive about Beard. And the ending wouldn’t be out of place in an Ealing comedy as all of the main character’s chickens come home to roost.
This is light reading about a light scientist.