A while back I started trawling a list of Booker prize winners to try and find some critically acclaimed books that I might actually enjoy (having so often been disappointed in the past) McEwan's Amsterdam caught my eye, but when I was in the library recently trying to decide what to take out they only had Solar in, so home it came with me.
Solar is book about science and human relationships, scattered with humour. Michael Beard is a Nobel prize winning scientist who has used the award to secure lucrative figurehead roles with numerous institutions and has managed to avoid doing any serious work ever since. Instead he's been busy acquiring and repelling five wives. The story starts in 2000 where he is dealing with his 5th wife's affair with a builder, and working on a wind turbine project, despite being unconvinced about the science behind climate change theories. His views change over time and through a twist of fate he finds himself with a set of notes detailing a way of harnessing the sun to provide unlimited cheap and clean energy.
At the start of the book I found myself pitying the ageing, balding cuckolded professor but as the story developed my attitude towards him changed regularly. Although he didn't turn out to be very likable he is a great character. There are plenty of other supporting characters but none written in anywhere near the same depth.
The plot contains lots of twists and turns and I was thoroughly entertained throughout, although it did take a little while for the story to really get going. I found some of the parts about climate change really interesting, but in places it was a bit heavy on the science for me. I was pleased that the tone of the book wasn't heavily weighted to either side of the argument about global warming though. The ending was a bit of a cliffhanger, leaving it open to the reader to wonder what direction Beard's life is likely to lurch in next.
Reading this book I was by turns astounded by what Beard was up to, and amused by some of the situations he got himself into. This was a really good book, if it wasn't for the scientific bits that were completely over my head probably would have been worth 5*, and I'll definitely be reading more of McEwan's work in the future.
Format: Hardcover, from the library
My Rating: 4*