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Solar

3.25  ·  Rating details ·  23,584 ratings  ·  2,731 reviews
Michael Beard is a Nobel prize–winning physicist whose best work is behind him, and whose fifth marriage is crumbling. However, an invitation to travel to New Mexico offers him a chance for him to extricate himself from his marital problems, reinvigorate his career, and save the world from environmental disaster. Can a man who has made a mess of his life clean up the messe ...more
Hardcover, 287 pages
Published April 12th 2010 by Random House (first published March 18th 2010)
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Mari I'm writing a paper arguing that Beard is himself meant to represent humanity's approach to the environmental disaster: he lacks the ability to take r…moreI'm writing a paper arguing that Beard is himself meant to represent humanity's approach to the environmental disaster: he lacks the ability to take responsibility for his own actions, acts in his own self-interest, and relishes in excess (both in food and women) to achieve his own pleasures at the detriment to himself and others.

I think McEwan's trying to tell us that by ignoring/failing to take large-scale concerted efforts against Global Warming simply because environmental issues don't seem to cause immediate catastrophe in our own lives we are effectively acting like the despicable Michael Beard.(less)
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Erica Golin This stumped me. I was confused because the falling off was explicitly documented, but medical intervention was not explicitly documented. (There was …moreThis stumped me. I was confused because the falling off was explicitly documented, but medical intervention was not explicitly documented. (There was mention of "painkillers," but where did he get those from?) Beard's "healing" and further "lovemaking" were included in the plot going forward. I'm still confused.(less)

Community Reviews

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Average rating 3.25  · 
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brian
Jan 27, 2010 rated it it was ok
ian mcewan hates you, dear reader.
have no illusions.
the guy flings more shit and pukes more bile in solar than g.g. allin ever dared dream.

check it: mcewan dazzles in select passages, but the sum ain't always more than its parts -- which isn't necessarily a bad thing. those perfect books with clearly defined themes, succinct, streamlined… yuk. you can have 'em. we like the meandering messes, shot to shit with all the baggage. but at the end of the slop… we've gotta feel something, it's gotta
...more
Manny
Jun 23, 2012 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Ian McEwan addicts
The novel is completed. He has posted the bulky typescript to his publisher - old-fashioned, he prefers this unnecessary gesture to the casual economy of e-mailing a PDF - and now he is free of the tormented inner voice telling him to reword, rejig, rewrite, rethink.

He knows it is not as good as his earlier books, which sometimes feel as though they were written by a near stranger, by a person he only half-remembers being. He has poured some of his confusion and disappointment into the novel's
...more
Kemper
Apr 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
The main character in Solar can’t control his appetites. He eats like Jabba the Hut at a casino buffet, drinks like an alcoholic fish and chases women every chance he gets. He’s also an unorganized slob who would rather just travel or stay somewhere else rather than clean up his own living space. On top of being greedy, opportunistic, selfish and lazy, he has no regard for the future. He can rationalize any potential warning signs of health issues or unpleasant business he’d rather not deal with ...more
Jessica
Aug 29, 2010 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: people who won't drink martin amis neat; swingers
Shelves: aborted-efforts
So I imagine young novelists are a promiscuous bunch. Writers play around and flirt with all manner of novels: date one genre for a few months before finding it oppressive.... move in too quickly with a voice that turns out to be all wrong for them.... have one-night stands with forms that are way too experimental. And I'm sure it's great fun for awhile, but it's not what they're ultimately after. No novelist wants to play the field forever! And some do find that special novel early, while for o ...more
Richard Derus
May 23, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: pearl-ruled
Rating: two grudging stars of five (p81)

In the middle of a paragraph, a thunderbolt struck me: I don't like Ian McEwan. I didn't like Atonement...I thought the damned kid shoulda been stoned...I didn't like Saturday...and I do NOT like this tedious tale of a credit-grabbing bore of a has-been.

So that's that. Like David Lodge, I shall leave the McEwanizing to the Brits and their fellow travelers. I myownself will be hornswoggled if I EVER consent to open another of his books.
Stela
Jan 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Should I feel ashamed? According to some critics of McEwan’s Solar I should, since its hero, Michael Beard, is a despicable character, a philanderer, a plagiarist, an egocentric and a criminal liar… whom I totally liked. Moreover, it is a long time since I have been so immersed in a reading to forget everything around me – last week I almost missed the metro stop on my way to university, so much I was enjoying this crazy, crazy book, which rose such conflicting reactions among its readers.

One of
...more
Mal Conner
Jun 05, 2011 rated it did not like it
I was reading in bed last night--I was a little more than half-way through--and it hit me: it is taking way too long to read this thing. Why? Not because it's a big book, or particularly difficult to understand, but because it is so boring. I dread opening it each day so I put it off. I read anything else. I closed it and tossed it aside. I'm done. I'll go find a new one tomorrow at the library.

It's really disappointing too, because when I read the premise, it sounded great! But McEwan spends s
...more
Helle
Feb 04, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: english
Out of all his novels, Solar, according to Ian McEwan himself, is the one that bombed in the United States. Before reading the novel, I wondered why this was so. Having read it, I see two possible reasons for this: one, that the efforts of the United States in the battle to save the planet are criticized (by the main character, Michael Beard) as being too ineffectual, or two: that there is so much scientific jargon in the novel - the importance of it in the aforementioned battle notwithstanding ...more
David
Nobel Laureate in Physics Michael Beard is a truly revolting piece of work: a slave to his appetites, whose progress through the novel is just one orgiastic frenzy of wenching, gourmandizing self-indulgence because, after all, curbing his sybaritic excess would just be too .... inconvenient. If you think it's a stroke of genius by Ian McEwan to use this troglodyte as a heavy-handed symbol of the kind of behavior that's causing global warming, then good for you. Let me know if you still feel that ...more
Paul
Dec 11, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: english-novels
This is the first McEwan I have read (not sure how I’ve avoided him up till now, because I have a few on my shelf waiting to be read). It was a fairly easy read, but I admit I wasn’t impressed, even though McEwan writes well. It is supposed to be satire and comedy and I know the protagonist, Michael Beard is not supposed to be likeable (that bit is successful), but for me the whole did not work.
The novel is in three sections set in 2000, 2005 and 2009 seeing Beard move from 53 to 62; from the de
...more
Leo Robertson
Jul 15, 2016 rated it liked it
Not bad at all :)

The kinda 3* you're happy to spend time with, though. McEwan is a comfy writer.
http://4archive.org/board/lit/thread/...

I know most reviewers are happy to have spent time with a book if they end up giving it 3* but I guess I just value my time more than they do ahahaha!! xD!!

If climate change kills us all (global warming is a scarier term, but we still need something worse, like worldwide asphyxiation or something), let it be said that novelist Ian McEwan pontificated comically o
...more
Betsy Robinson
Mar 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Nobel Prize-winning physicist Michael Beard is a real a-hole—a user of women, an idea thief, and a framing felon (if there is such a thing) responsible for imprisoning an innocent man. But he views the consequences of his misdeeds as “distractions” “in a conspiracy to prevent him from making his gift to the world. None of this was his fault.” (p. 275)

I read this book slowly, in small bits, and I never had trouble retaining all the bits—which would not have been the case with such a work by a les
...more
Ray
Mar 09, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Nobel scientist and philanderer finds a new way of using solar energy to fuel the planet. Five times married he is a bit of a playa despite being short, bald and fat.

I struggled to get into this, or warm to the characters. Competent story, no more.
Cynthia
May 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
A Nobel winning physicist is approaching the descending side of his life. Michael Beard’s had five wives with each marriage leaving a bigger pile of emotional junk in its wake. He can’t or won’t grow up. He just stays in motion hoping it will all sort itself out. It doesn’t. It gets worse. By the end of the book there are sweltering piles of personal and professional cacao threatening to fall on him.

In classic McEwen style there is a pivot incident that changes or enhances the trajectory of Bear
...more
Carolyn

In this satirical novel Ian McEwan creates the unlikeable Michael Beard, Nobel Prize winning Physicist. With his best work behind him, Michael is an overweight womaniser who lives off speaking engagements and memberships of Boards. At the start of the novel he has recently been appointed to head a new Centre looking for novel ways of generating renewable energy.

For some reason Michael Beard is a magnet to younger women. He is currently on his 5th marriage and, for some reason that is not clear t
...more
Ellie
Feb 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
It's been well-documented that Michael Beard, the protagonist of Ian McEwan's novel, Solar, is one of McEwan's more unlikable characters. But then I think that McEwan generally likes the unlikable-I find Briony from Atonement close to unbearable, completely so after she's grown. I can hardly think of a character of his that I actually like.

Despite this, I like McEwan very much. His writing is near pitch-perfect. And there's something freeing in seeing the seedier side of humanity at the center
...more
Michelle
Feb 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars.

I am not a book snob, and I will devour young adult page turners with the best of them. I also let myself eat McDonalds drive-thru on road trips, and even enjoy it. But reading McEwan is like switching gears and having a 12-course meal. Each bite thoughtful and balanced, and all part of a cohesive meal. I love that, even as a really fast reader, I have to read EVERY SINGLE sentence of his work. Because each sentence brings me that much closer to understanding his characters and how the
...more
Roger Brunyate
Nov 17, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: science, comedy-sorta
Global Warming, Creative Cooling

Michael Beard, the protagonist of Ian McEwan's long-awaited new novel, is a winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics. Fifty-something when the book opens, he has become a minor establishment figure, chair of government committees and keynote speaker at conferences, but he is all too aware that his original work is long behind him. By the second of the book's three sections, he has reinvented himself as a crusader in the fight against global warming, and the final part
...more
Michael
Jul 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Great satire of a scientist who is all too human in his appetites, insecurities, and problems in relationships. The protagonist, Michael Beard, is a Nobel laureate in quantum physics who has run out of ideas and bumbles through marriage after marriage, a lovable misanthrope and solipsist. McEwan portrays very realistically how such a physicist might hitch his sail to the movement for renewable energy, artificial photosynthesis in particular. We root for him as his personal disasters threaten his ...more
Fionnuala
The publishing world makes such a fuss when Ian McEwan produces a new book that I succumb to the hype every time and read the latest one. When I heard that he was tackling climate change this time, I wondered if this would be the novel to convince me that I've been wrong about him all along as, although I admire his style and his research skills, I've always found his stories to be unpleasantly menacing while bordering on the ridiculous, a combination which doesn't make for much reader satisfact ...more
Rebecca McNutt
Nov 27, 2016 rated it did not like it
Environmental propaganda and romance so passionate that it's more fake than a Lifetime movie. What's not to love? And it's too bad really, because Ian McEwan usually doesn't confine his writing to this sort of thing. :(
Maia
For days I've been trying to think all the reasons why this novel disappointed me so much, even as I was one of the many in our bookclub to enthusiastically vote it for our April read. Normally I quite enjoy Ian McEwan, though other than On Chesil Beach, his books--even when I admire them--leave me with a tingling sense of annoyance that I never before understood.

Until I read today's excellent NY Times review, which, summed up, pretty much labels it an overwritten, overstretched 'too-good' novel
...more
Teresa
Apr 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
As I started the second part of this book, I started wondering if this could end up being the first McEwan book that I didn't like at all. But I also had the feeling that I could trust him, and I was right to do so -- the 'bad' feeling quickly went away.

Some of the humor was not to my liking, in particular a slapstick-y episode early on and a 'gross-out' scene later on. But the latter wasn't too bad, considering, and I still could appreciate how well done the former was. A few things later on s
...more
Emmkay
Mar 24, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Clearly not everyone's cup of tea, as I see from scanning the reviews. However, I found this delightful and nasty and clever and funny. No, Michael Beard is not a very nice man, and yes, he's a disgusting slob and all will end badly. But what snarky fun McEwan's novel is.
Matthew Appleton
68th book of 2020.

Before I go on and half-justify this, I'll go on and say that, in my opinion, this is a terrible book. But rather than just saying that, this is why.

If Not For Stephen Lewis

I'm rather glad that the last McEwan I read was The Child in Time, and I gave it 5 stars (review here) so I don't just look like an unreasonable Ian McEwan hater. Though, I have disliked many of his others books. But none worse than this.

For a start, there are hardly any scenes in this book. There are para
...more
Hezza H
Dec 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I think my first Goodreads review has to be defending this old favourite, which is absolutely in my top three Ian McEwan books and also my top twenty books ever. You're not interested in me, but when someone who reads a significant amount has a book among their all-time favourites that book must have some redeeming qualities, I find.

Solar is the story of Michael Beard. Michael Beard has been characterised among reviewers and Ian McEwan fans as "obnoxious", and they say this ruins the book, becau
...more
Julian Lees
Mar 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
Not my favourite McEwan novel but a fine story nonetheless. Michael Beard is one of those characters you want to throttle publicly, yet privately you egg him on.
Dillwynia Peter
Apr 29, 2018 rated it did not like it
I was really surprised regarding this one. A novel on renewable energy and a loathsome character to follow: Yes, please, I said. But I was disappointed; very disappointed.

I am not one that has to like their main character. They can be truly repugnant in every way, and I will enjoy the novel. The problem for me was: it felt like a bad Kingsley Amis novel from the 1960s; something akin to Lucky Jim. Yawn! I said. Do these people exist much anymore? The fat, balding man who seems to have affairs wi
...more
Marc Maitland
This is Ian McEwan’s latest novel. It is by far the funniest of his writings, and some of the scenes he vividly paints literally had me laughing out aloud. I won’t spoil the surprise by revealing any of these miniature masterpieces, but they combine an acute awareness of human nature, double-entrendre and irony that have long been the hallmarks of authors such as Michael Frayn.





The “hero” of the novel is an inherently unlikeable person, rich in the unattractive traits of a certain type of self-i
...more
Will Ansbacher
Jan 03, 2012 rated it liked it
By anyone else this would be a rather mediocre book, and it’s certainly not his best; Atonement was far better and more complex. It’s really only redeemed by McEwan’s consistently elegant writing style and the way it hangs together, not just in the description of Beard’s repulsive character but in the science too. I see others have labelled it a comic novel. I wouldn’t, in fact I thought the “comic” interlude of the Northern cruise was pointless and quite unbelievable - compared to the carefully ...more
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The Solar water heater provides the ability 1 1 May 15, 2019 11:49PM  
Solar heaters can be acclimated in blazon of environment 1 1 May 06, 2019 11:21PM  
What happens at the end? 15 181 Mar 31, 2014 10:48AM  

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Ian McEwan studied at the University of Sussex, where he received a BA degree in English Literature in 1970 and later received his MA degree in English Literature at the University of East Anglia.

McEwan's works have earned him worldwide critical acclaim. He won the Somerset Maugham Award in 1976 for his first collection of short stories First Love, Last Rites; the Whitbread Novel Award (1987) and
...more

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