Solar by Ian McEwan - review by D J Taylor

D J Taylor

Hot Topics



Jonathan Cape 283pp £18.99 order from our bookshop

It is an ancient reviewer’s cliché that the older novelists get, the more like themselves they become. The tics grow more pronounced; the stylisation more conspicuous; the resort to favourite themes and patternings more artless. The least that can be said of Solar, consequently, is that it is a very typical Ian McEwan novel. There are the lashings of ‘research’, none of it lightly worn; there is the customary freight of improbable incident; there is the well-meaning, if faintly neurotic, Guardian-reader sensibility, which saturates the proceedings; there is a great deal of notably fine writing, and a genuine engagement with the hot topics (literally, in this case) of the time; and a fair amount that doesn’t even begin to convince. Rarely has a contemporary novelist managed to be quite so modish in his concerns and yet quite so old-fashioned in the way he chooses to execute them.

Despite his praiseworthy determination to confront some of the great anxieties of the age – see in particular Saturday (2005), set on the day of the 2003 anti-Iraq march through central London – McEwan’s novels nearly always exhibit a curiously old-world tint. Part of this is to do

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

The Incomparible Monsignor

Kafka Drawings

Follow Literary Review on Twitter