Solar

by Ian Mcewan

Knopf Canada | March 8, 2011 | Trade Paperback

2 out of 5 rating. 1 Reviews
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An engrossing, satirical and very funny new novel on climate change.

Michael Beard is in his late fifties; bald, overweight, unprepossessing - a Nobel Prize-winning physicist whose best work is behind him. Trading on his reputation, he speaks for enormous fees, lends his name to the letterheads of renowned scientific institutions and half-heartedly heads a government-backed initiative tackling global warming. An inveterate philanderer, Beard finds his fifth marriage floundering. But this time it is different: she is having the affair, and he is still in love with her.

When Beard''s professional and personal worlds are entwined in a freak accident, an opportunity presents itself, a chance for Beard to extricate himself from his marital mess, reinvigorate his career and very possibly save the world from environmental disaster.

With a global scope, Solar is a comedy dealing directly with the crises of today. A story of one man''s ambitions and self-deceptions, it is a startling and stylish new departure in the work of one of the world''s great writers.


From the Hardcover edition.

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 352 pages, 3.15 × 2.03 × 0.31 in

Published: March 8, 2011

Publisher: Knopf Canada

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0307399257

ISBN - 13: 9780307399250

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– More About This Product –

Solar

by Ian Mcewan

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 352 pages, 3.15 × 2.03 × 0.31 in

Published: March 8, 2011

Publisher: Knopf Canada

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0307399257

ISBN - 13: 9780307399250

Read from the Book

He belonged to that class of men – vaguely unprepossessing, often bald, short, fat, clever – who were unaccountably attractive to certain beautiful women. Or he believed he was, and thinking seemed to make it so. And it helped that some women believed he was a genius in need of rescue. But the Michael Beard of this time was a man of narrowed mental condition, anhedonic, monothematic, stricken. His fifth marriage was disintegrating and he should have known how to behave, how to take the long view, how to take the blame. Weren’t marriages, his marriages, tidal, with one rolling out just before another rolled in? But this one was different. He did not know how to behave, long views pained him, and for once there was no blame for him to assume, as he saw it. It was his wife who was having the affair, and having it flagrantly, punitively, certainly without remorse. He was discovering in himself, among an array of emotions, intense moments of shame and longing. Patrice was seeing a builder, their builder, the one who had repointed their house, fitted their kitchen, retiled their bathroom, the very same heavy-set fellow who in a tea break had once shown Michael a photo of his mock-Tudor house, renovated and tudorised by his own hand, with a boat on a trailer under a Victorian-style lamp post on the concreted front driveway, and space on which to erect a decommissioned red phone box. Beard was surprised to find how complicated it was to be the cuckold. Misery was no
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From the Publisher

An engrossing, satirical and very funny new novel on climate change.

Michael Beard is in his late fifties; bald, overweight, unprepossessing - a Nobel Prize-winning physicist whose best work is behind him. Trading on his reputation, he speaks for enormous fees, lends his name to the letterheads of renowned scientific institutions and half-heartedly heads a government-backed initiative tackling global warming. An inveterate philanderer, Beard finds his fifth marriage floundering. But this time it is different: she is having the affair, and he is still in love with her.

When Beard''s professional and personal worlds are entwined in a freak accident, an opportunity presents itself, a chance for Beard to extricate himself from his marital mess, reinvigorate his career and very possibly save the world from environmental disaster.

With a global scope, Solar is a comedy dealing directly with the crises of today. A story of one man''s ambitions and self-deceptions, it is a startling and stylish new departure in the work of one of the world''s great writers.


From the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

IAN McEWAN is the author of two collections of stories and eleven previous novels, including Enduring Love, Amsterdam, for which he won the Booker Prize in 1998, Atonement and, most recently, On Chesil Beach.


From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

#1 NATIONAL BESTSELLER
INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER
 
A Globe and Mail Best Book
A New York Times Notable Book
An O: The Oprah Magazine Great Read 
Winner - Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction 2010
 
"Deeply funny."
-Toronto Star
 
"Scarcely a page fails to dazzle with some wittily caught perception about contemporary life. Blazing with imagination and intellectual energy, Solar is a stellar performance."
-Peter Kemp, The Sunday Times

"McEwan at his best. Intelligent, funny, and full of insights."
-The Guardian

"A stunningly accomplished work, possibly his best yet."
-Financial Times

"Solar burns with wit and energy. It demonstrates why McEwan is among the language''s most popular literary novelists."
-Winnipeg Free Press

"In Atonement or Enduring Love or Amsterdam or Saturday or pretty much any of his novels, Solar has many adept competitors for best of breed, and those competitors are beloved. But this may be his best work yet."
-The Star Phoenix

Bookclub Guide

1. Beard loves physics in part because he believes that it is "free of human taint" (p.10). In what ways does the novel complicate this belief? In what sense is Beard''s own work "tainted" by human entanglements?

2. The narrative structure of Solar is mostly chronological. What effects does McEwan achieve by occasionally departing from a straightforward chronological progression?

3. Beard claims he does not believe in the possibility of "profound inner change" (p.77). Does he remain unchanged over the course of the novel?

4. How does McEwan manage to make Beard such a sympathetic character despite his many foibles? What are his most salient character flaws?

5. Why is Beard so attached to preserving what he calls his "unshareable core"? (p.307). Why does he find it impossible to tell Melissa that he loves her? Why do his marriages keep falling apart?

6. In what ways is Solar a satirical novel? What are its main satirical targets? How, for example, do postmodernists come off in the book?

7. What are some of the funniest moments in Solar? How does McEwan create such brilliant comedic effects?

8. Look at the encounters between art and science in the novel, those occasions when Beard squares off with people from the humanities - novelists, folklorists, postmodern feminists, etc. Who gets the better of these confrontations? Is the book as a whole making a point through its depiction of these encounters?

9. What is the significance of the entropy in the boot room on board the ship that is holding the conference on climate change? What does this chaos and carelessness suggest about humanity''s ability to stop global warming?

10. 10. Beard has a remarkably clear conscience; he is largely untroubled by his affairs and deceits, his theft of Aldous's ideas, his framing of Tarpin, etc. Why is he so free of the guilt that might afflict most other men?

11. Several times during the course of the novel it appears that public infamy - born of journalists'' insatiable desire for controversy and Beard''s own willingness to step into it - will doom Beard''s career. What enables him to emerge from these disasters relatively unscathed? Will he be as lucky getting out of the mess he''s created at the very end of the book?

12. How surprising is the ending of the novel, particularly the final sentence? What is the swelling sensation that Beard feels in his heart as his daughter approaches him? What is likely to happen to Beard next?

13. How does the appendix containing the presentation speech for Beard''s Nobel Prize alter the way Beard is finally viewed? Why would McEwan choose to attach this appendix to the body of the novel?

14. Solar is in many ways a picaresque and at times farcical novel, and yet it also engages a theme of major importance - global warming. What is the connection between personal and planetary catastrophe in the novel, between the meltdown of Beard''s personal and professional life and the kind of greed, dishonesty, rationalization, and failure to face facts that has resulted in the climate crisis? What is the significance, in this context, of Beard''s inability to moderate his eating habits and his sexual pursuits?

15. What does Solar contribute to our understanding of climate change?

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