Book Review | Solar by Ian McEwan

solar-book-review-paiges-pagesTITLE: Solar
AUTHOR: Ian McEwan
PUBLISHER: Random House
RELEASE DATE: March 18, 2010
GENRE: Adult Fiction

If you’re anything like me, feeling invested in an empathetic character is the compelling reason you read a book.  But what if you hated the protagonist?  Would you still commit to reading?  Or would you throw the book down in a huff, repulsed by the character’s lack of human decency?

I was warned that Solar would be a hard read.  The protagonist, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Michael Beard, is an irredeemable narcissist.  With five broken marriages and countless affairs stringing after him like toilet paper, Michael epitomises the anti-hero.  

Living off the reputation of his past work, Michael agrees to head a global warming initiative.  Meanwhile, his home life is disintegrating.  Michael is  confronted with the unthinkable – despite his own long history of infidelity, his wife is having an affair… and he’s still in love with her.

Solar tested me on many levels.  Even though Michael is an awful person who trespassed many of my moral boundaries, I still recognised his humanity.  After all, many of his actions are exaggerated versions of human flaws the majority of readers would relate to.  However, I couldn’t stop trying to predict the ending.  Often stories will teach us that bad things inevitably happen to bad people.  I was conflicted whether I wanted Michael to get his just deserts or succeed in the end.  This unique predicament forced me to rethink my assumptions.

Even though this is a hard book to recommend, simply because Michael is so despicable, I appreciated how Solar forced me to think.  I also can’t ignore how polished and beautiful Ian McEwan’s writing is.  However, I ultimately gave Solar a two star rating because it was such an unenjoyable reading experience and I will happily go without ever meeting Michael again. 

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