I have always been fascinated by the power of words and the ability of gifted writers to ignite the imagination, fuel the intellect and feed the soul. Reading is the supreme indulgence and perhaps connects us most intimately with what it is to be human, traversing emotions and the very history of mankind.
There can be little doubt that McEwan ia an exceptionally talented writer. Fresh from reading “Atonement”, for me, this is clearly demonstrated by the contrasting, but similarly compelling style and storyline deployed in “Solar”.
This book centres on Nobel-prize-winning physicist, Professor Michael Beard. A brilliant mind, though past his ‘best before’ shelf-life, Beard is an emotional train crash, careering out of a fifth failed marriage and destined to be perpetually disappointed by the self-inflicted carnage of his sabotaged relationships. And yet, the superficial nature of Beard’s disposable romantic encounters, juxtaposed with the gravity and gloomy predictions of global-warming, is shot through with mawkish satirical humour. Notwithstanding the lure of scientific rationality, the weak and shallow base motivations of man are seemingly unequal to the challenge of impending destruction. Moreover, humankind may yet be sacrificed on the altar of our individual and collective inability to focus! It’s a sobering thought….
Another well-constructed novel, which further burnishes McEwan’s reputation, though I was also left with the impression that the serious threat to the planet is no laughing matter!
This book chronicles the life of Phillip, from orphaned young boy to around thirty, set in the late 19th century and yet the story is so exquisitely told that a much longer period seemed to pass. Maugham tackles some weighty themes too, such as the meaning (or not) of life, class, death, gender, poverty, the relevance of ‘moral’ behaviour. There are very few books that I would consider starting again immediately, but with “Of Human Bondage”, I could, safe in the knowledge that there would still be much to mull over within the text. Notwithstanding the beautiful use of language, at times the book seems quite profound and I found myself savouring some delightful passages. Certainly the themes retain a contemporary resonance and the tension between individual and wider social values continue to echo modern dilemmas. This was my first exposure to Maugham and yet this book has been elevated , on this one reading, to my personal shortlist of ‘great’ books. The plot appears simple and yet is intricate in the unfurling, the underlying issues are challenging and it is hard not to reflect on one’s own capacity for rational behaviour. At the very least it is an interesting examination of aspects of the human condition, which everyone should have on their ‘must read’ list. I must read it again very soon! Simply a great read!