Solar by Ian McEwan

Sunday 25th September   

Brilliant, hilarious and heart-warming – a tour de force.  How does he do it?  How does he pull together his story from such disparate ideas; a dead-beat but brilliant physicist whose personal life is a mess, a murder that never was, global warming, and the world of business and science intertwined?  The man is a genius; unfortunately the genius is also a man.  I just cannot believe the women in this book, they are ridiculous.  And yet I seem to recall he understood women so well in his earlier books, I haven’t read them all but in ‘The innocent’ and ‘Atonement’ his women are all too real.

Believe me, I am no feminist, although you may be thinking I am becoming one after yesterday’s and today’s blogs, but no, I leave all of that to my mother. Women are absolutely the equal to men, especially in the realms of stupidity, and, by and large, have an easy time of it, except maybe for childbirth, something incidentally that most men are secretly jealous of.  Well, look at my family, for example – we have all existed on the largesse of men’s labours and not our own; I did work for several years but I never had to support a wife (husband) and children, my money was my own to spend, not to support others.

Anyway, the point I was making was that the women in McEwan’s book are just so compliant, so willing to have sex at every opportunity with, and I know it is meant to be funny, an increasingly fat and balding short man with bad personal habits.  Unrealistic, no, unbelievable I would say.  And they are all so happy for him to have other lovers, and he acquires women who are just as complacent all over the place.  Does it really happen like this, out there in the real world, the one I have never seemed to be able to break into?  I think not, not really.  This is, at bottom, a middle-aged male erotic fantasy I am afraid.

But I loved so much else about the book.  I always watch Horizon, so I am already a physics junkie, and just love all the stuff about photons and electrons and photovoltaics.  I don’t pretend to understand anything more than a vague idea of it all, but McEwan writes with such confidence that whether his science is real and works or is just made up matters not a whit.

So overall a success, provided you suspend common-sense long enough, which actually may well be the formula for writing a best-seller anyway.