Michael Beard is a Nobel prize-winning physicist whose best work is behind him. A compulsive womaniser, Beard finds his fifth marriage floundering. But this time it is different: his wife is having the affair, and he is still in love with her. When Beard's professional and personal worlds collide in a freak accident, an opportunity presents itself for Beard to extricate himself from his marital mess, reinvigorate his career and save the world from environmental disaster.
Booker Prize winner McEwan (On Chesil Beach; Atonement) once again deploys domestic strife to examine the currents of worldwide change. This time, McEwan shoots for the sun, with the promise of solar energy gradually legitimizing itself in the mind of Nobel Prize winning physicist Michael Beard. While Bush v. Gore drags on across the Atlantic and Beard's fifth marriage dissolves in an adulterous haze, the waning laureate rides his reputation to a cushy position at a U.K. climate research center, where he is generally disdainful of his younger colleagues. Then, following an epiphany of sorts, Beard pins the accidental death of a rival scientist on his wife's lover and steals the other man's research. By 2009, Beard is in New Mexico, riding high on ill-gotten funding and patents and within sight of a curious redemption. Beard is a fascinatingly repulsive protagonist, but he can't sustain a novel broken up by fast-forwards (all of which require tedious backstories) and a stream of overwritten courtships. The scientific material is absorbing, but the interpersonal portions are much less so troublesome, since McEwan seems to prefer the latter making for an inconsistent novel that one finishes feeling unpleasantly glacial.
An engaging read
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It does a good job of educating the reader about some of the science around climate change and photovoltaics whilst at the same time being an engaging and at times comic, human story. Ian McEwan's sharp writing and the twists and turns in Michael Beard's highly complicated - and at times pretty excruciating - personal life make for a very good read.
McEwan funny and educational
I enjoyed reading this book
A very entertaining tale
Threaded around the scientific and industrial green energy debate a brilliant and vain antivillian's story is told. Beautiful.