Ian McEwan can be great as demonstrated in On Chesil Beach and Atonement but also not so great such as Saturday, Solar however belongs to the former category, I really enjoyed this. It is his funniest novel, an entertaining read and even had me laughing out loud.
The protagonist is Michael Beard, a Nobel Prize winning scientist working for a governmental environmental think-tank. He is short, fat, ridiculous and a serial shagger; at the start of the novel he is on his fifth marriage. Beard is obviously intelligent and a bit of a twit but his ridiculousness makes him a more sympathetic character than you would expect. The plot concerns Beards’ not particularly diligent work to deal with climate change which are often disastrous. As the story develops Beard steals an idea for next generation Solar panels from his fifth ex-wife´s dead lover. The story occurs over a nine-year period and takes place in London, Alaska (with a very funny account of a penis freezing off) and finally New Mexico.
This book is very clever as there are very complicated scientific issues concerning climate change, which could be really boring and preachy, but the humourous way that McEwan deals with them make this book both clever and interesting.
I would recommend reading this for the best description of salt and vinegar crisps and the hugely funny incident with them on a train and the frozen penis episodes on their own.