Solaris Ian McEwan’s latest novel. It is the story of Michael Beard a physicist who in his youth discovered the Beard-Einstein conflation for which he was awarded the Nobel prize. Since receiving the prize he has done little physics choosing instead to use his fame to receive grants and positions. One of which is at the ‘National Centre for Renewable Energy’. Here he meets the young and enthusiastic Tom Aldous.
Michael Beard has been married five times and his fifth wife, Patrice, is having an affair (in retaliation to all of his affairs) with their builder. Beard takes this defection hard and to try to take his mind off the situation he accepts a trip to a glacier in the arctic circle so he witness the effects of global warming for himself. This involves an hilarious (and painful) journey on a snow mobile. On his return he discovers that Patrice has moved on from the builder and is now having an affair with Tom Aldous. A series of events unfold from this crises (I won’t spoil it for anyone) which leads ultimately (and deservedly) to Beard’s downfall.
Michael Beard is a particularly unattractive character; always looking out for himself and treating people (particularly women) very badly.
The writing is beautiful and I kept reading to the end despite loathing Beard. This novel isn’t about global warming and the need to find a clean energy source – it’s simply the frame used to portray a brilliant man whose won success seems to be his undoing.
I don’t think this is McEwan at his best, but I still think it’s worth a read.
Here are some other reviews