Thursday, May 6, 2010

Solar, Ian McEwan

Upon opening McEwan’s newest novel I first checked out the list of other titles by the author. I was shocked to see I have read McEwan’s last five novels (having read a total of six of his novels). I have never listed McEwan as a favorite author or put much thought into him as being on a top ten list of favorite contemporary writers. I have no reason for this. As I have enjoyed all six of the books I have read. And, I find Saturday (his last prior to Solar) to be his best, strongest novel of them all.

This gave me hope for Solar. Having realized my respect for McEwan as a writer and having enjoyed his last so thoroughly (Saturday being the only novel I have read in one sitting since college), I assumed Solar was going to be a very enjoyable experience. Solar is a quick read. McEwan’s prose is still strong. But, all of the pieces of a McEwan novel aren’t quite working in the same way. Maybe I shouldn’t fault an author for kind of trying something new. The pieces for a McEwan plot are all present, but they’re scattered about and not considered too terribly important this time around.

The main character, Beard, is a disgusting creation. He cheats, drinks, lies, etc. Everything about the character is stereotyped. Over the top. It isn’t new for a McEwan character to be unappealing. In fact, many of his creations are unappealing. But, he manages to make us feel sorry for these people. McEwan can pull us into their world and create a little bit of pity. This time around, I felt nothing but annoyance at the main character. By the time Beard’s world crumbles around him I was more than pleased to see he was becoming a fallen man.

I appreciate McEwan’s dark humor. The attempt at creating something a little bit different from previous works. But, the plot feels forced. The climax rushed. In fact, the climax seems sloppy- too quickly appearing from out of nowhere (even though it is clear from the start where everything is heading). I am not put off enough to say I will not anticipate the next McEwan novel. But, Solar certainly wasn’t worth the wait.


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