One of my favourite writers is Ian McEwan. His characters are always totally believable. His strength is to take an everyday subject and use it to convey important concepts. A great example is On Chesil Beach, seemingly just about a just married couple on honeymoon on the English south coast in 1962. In passing, this novel provides Ian McEwan with the opportunity to show how society has changed. Yet, I was just a bit disappointed with his latest Novel, Solar.
The main figure in Solar is Michael Beard, a famous scientist who is working on solving the problem of global warming. There is practically no development in this person’s character. Right at the end of the novel we are dealing with the same person we started out with, still apparently without a conscience even though he has had his up and downs. Michael Beard isn’t a character who rings true. How can a man without any real passion for his subject go so far in science? It is very hard to figure out what motivates Michael Beard. Beard is a perfect parody of a scientist.
The other characters stand out even less. This could well be due to the fact that they are presented to us from the point of view of the very bland Michael.
The discussion of scientific matters in Solar is correct but rather tedious. It seems as if McEwan main aim was not to trip up on the science. This just detracts from what is normally McEwan’s strongest point: character development.
I have the suspicion that Solar was not as close to his heart compared to his other books. I felt the same when reading Elizabeth Costello by J.M. Coetzee as well as A week in December by Sebastian Faulks.
Three writers I very much admire and who went for a fashionable subject, however thoroughly researched, of respectively: climate change, animal rights and the financial world. Yet they didn’t produce their best work.
My premise is the best books are written by writers who stay true to themselves.