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Ian McEwan's new novel Solar has been embarrassingly over-lauded in the Broadsheet reviews I've read. Thomas Jones, writing in the LRB, is a little more circumspect:


In a New Yorker profile of McEwan last year, Galen Strawson is quoted as saying that ‘Ian is essentially a short-story writer,’ that none of his longer books ‘has the unity of drive that the best novels have’. It’s hard to disagree with this assessment. The disappearance of the daughter in the supermarket at the beginning of The Child in Time (1987), the balloon accident in Enduring Love, the retreat to Dunkirk and the arrival of the wounded at a London hospital in Atonement (2001) are among the most compelling passages of English fiction of the last 25 years. The novels they’re in, however, are schematically structured, with occasionally lurching plot development, and the main themes are loudly hammered home. Solar is no exception (more...)

Readers Comments

  1. "Embarrassingly over-lauded" is an apt phrase, as is "overkill". I have both liked and disliked various McEwan novels, but with Solar I almost feel that I don't need to read it given the amount of reviews, interviews, posters, t-shirts, and radio extracts I've encountered in the last few weeks. Obviously if I were his publicity team I be delighted with the campaign, and I say that without sarcasm, being a publicist myself, but as a punter... too much in too short a time period.

  2. Jonathan Derbyshire Wednesday 24 March 2010

    Mark, I think Leo Robson in the New Statesman was the first reviewer to break with the consensus:

    http://www.newstatesman.com/books/2010/03/mcewan-updike-novel-beard-bech#reader-comments

  3. You may be right, Jonathan - but it will take me a while before I respect Robson's reviews again, following the shabby job he did in his piece on DeLillo's Point Omega (& White Noise). In a lengthy review, to devote a mere 3, short-ish, paragraphs to Point Omega itself appeared to be an abnegation of critical responsibility...an abnegation only emphasised by his failure to engage in any way with DeLillo's late works. His sole comment on these works? - that in them is to be heard a "hollow DeLilloan sound". That's it. Whatever one thinks of DeLillo's late fiction - & I happen to think that, on the whole, it is writing of the very highest quality - he is a writer whose achievements over his career, whose evident seriousness about his craft, demand of a critic a more committed response, an altogether more engaged effort.

  4. I think we're being too harsh, Robson is a good reviewer, in my humble opinion.

  5. Good post, I think that Kirsty is being much too harsh on McEwan's publicity machine; he's a great writer in an era where so much is being lost. Thanks for posting,

    Francis Petersen
    Editor, Schiel & Denver
    http://www.schieldenver.com/

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