I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.
Ian McEwan is probably best known for his famous work ATONEMENT so those readers familiar with that book may be surprised with his latest work. I am a fan of McEwan's but this may be my favorite work so far. SOLAR is witty and wry in its depiction of a Noble Prize winner resting a little too comfortably on his laurels. Michael Beard won the Nobel Prize as a young man and spent most of his life living as a pseudo-celebrity and accomplishing nothing of note save five failed marriages. The novel opens at the end of the fifth marriage where Beard finds himself the cuckold for a change. He is aging, balding, overweight, self-absorbed and generally unlikeable. Yet he has a Mr. Magoo quality in that things always seems to work for him. As despicable as he may seem, he continues to fall into titular positions with generous stipends, lucrative speaking engagements and romantic entaglements with attractive women. McEwan even allows Beard to make a media spectacle of himself by stating at a press conference that there aren't many women at the top of his profession due to inherent differences in their brains rather than any sort of discrimination in the system. Yet, Beard manages to survive this snafu as well. The book follows Beard's life over a nine-year span as he goes from an apathetic egomaniac content to rest on the accomplishments of his past to a new-found interest in the future of solar energy due to a curious turn of events.
I found much of the book laugh-out-loud funny. There is a scene on a train revolving around a packet of crisps that I found especially humorous. One can only shake one's head and smile at Beard's antics. He is awful but you can't wait to see how he gets out of trouble each time and where he will end up at the end of the book. SOLAR is typical, timely and humorous and offers a truly great literary character in the form of Beard.
This book will be published in March.
BOTTOM LINE: Highly recommended. McEwan fans will find much to like here and I think this one will draw new readers in as well. Very well done.