I read my first McEwan when I was around 17. 6 long years ago. Since last year, I’ve devoured 4 of his novels: On Chesil Beach, The Children Act and Nutshell. I thoroughly enjoyed all of these, and found their narrators very interesting. So when I picked this one up, I thought I knew what to expect. But Solar (2010) was not what I expecting.
First of all: I did not enjoy the narrator. Michael Beard is a physicist who won a Nobel prize and has ceased to do any meaningful work since then. He’s cynical, has lost his passion for science and doesn’t think climate change is an issue. He has cheated on his wife (his fifth wife, that is) and is now filled with jealousy over his wife cheating on him.
Michael Beard is someone who constantly pities himself, and always puts himself first. He’s probably the least relatable narrator ever. And that’s why this novel is this interesting. At first, I found it hard to get through: I was so appalled by Beard’s behaviour, it made me want to stop reading. But McEwan hasn’t disappointed me as of yet, so I decided to soldier on.
Throughout the novel, Beard tries to redeem and better himself, but is still failing to do so. The narrative is split into three parts, and Beard seems to be making the same mistakes in all parts. Still, nearing the ending of the story, I started to enjoy the narrative. It’s far from my favourite McEwan novel, but I still enjoyed it nonetheless. Since it’s so hard to relate to the protagonist, it forces you outside your comfort zone, which is something everyone should do every once in a while.