Ian McEwan sparkles in the sunlight

I finished “Solar” last night. This is a truly engaging, character driven piece. At its heart is a satire on the research community and the petty politics which (I presume) pervade academia. The story involves a Nobel Laureate who finds his life spiralling into an increasing farcical mess. The “set pieces” are quite funny but it is not “laugh out loud hilarious”. There is humour here, but it is neither crass nor blindingly obvious. The humour creeps up from behind, subtly digging you in the ribs. Our protagonist “Beard” is found in three parts of his adult life. We get flashbacks to earlier scenes and these really do add weight to the current situation under consideration. The whole style is not dissimilar to “Saturday” althought that was set over one day. If I had one small niggle it would be that the “afterword” should have been at the beginning. This would have had an unnerving effect on the reader, in light of the fact that it would have led the reader into considerations of fact / fiction crossover. The science, such as it is, does not overwhelm the general narrative and the thrust remains firmly on the, rather distasteful, character of Beard himself. The finale is worthy of the book as a whole.

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