Saturday, July 3, 2010

Reading Time - Ian McEwan's Solar

One of the best things about being a teacher are the holidays - no one will deny that. But I feel they are a just reward for putting up with smelly snotty nosed teenagers for nine months of the year. Most of my friends  are envious of my holidays but still wouldn't do my job even if the pay was doubled. Holidays are the only time I get a chance to read (something other than over priced textbooks anyway) and having just received my well earned holidays last Saturday, I quickly got stuck into my first novel of the summer - Ian McEwan's Solar. 

I'm not a prolific reader but I do try to tackle a few during the intermittent breaks over the year. When I do get a chance, I generally keep it light. However, McEwan's novel is both light and dark, and it is a testament to his writing talents that he manages to pull this off. His most potent tool in accomplishing this is humour, but not in your face short snappy humour but much more subtle dark and drawn out humour. 

The story tells the tale of Nobel Laureate Michael Beard, a brilliant but flawed physicist. Through circumstance and accident, Beard formulates a plan to use the power of the Sun to create artificial photosynthesis. However, over the  course of the novel the central character manages to get entangled in a towering series of lies which eventually sees him fall further into imperfection. I'm not going to give too much away (I hate when people do that) but I will say that I found Beard tough to take at times. McEwan almost created the perfect hate figure for me. I often felt the story dragged on too much (particularly the middle section) but the final section's fast pace and dark comedy kept me up late into the night, eager to see how Beard might steer himself out of his many corners. The book has not been received well by all critics, but, for me, is the perfect summer read - especially for a science teacher with a dark sense of humour. The "global warming" sub-plot never really figured for me, it was all about the character of Beard - fat, balding, lazy but genius. I didn't expect a comedy from McEwan, light and fluffy isn't really his thing. I did laugh out loud at some points but, in the end, there is a deeper message - that no crime can go unpunished. 

I didn't mean for this post to be a book review - I don't command enough of the English language to do justice to McEwan (Click here for a proper review - from the Guardian). I meant this post to be about reading and how it can reinvigorate and recharges the busy teacher. Reading is escapism and sometimes we all need to escape. My colleague Julian Girdham, of the SCC English Blog, has compiled a Summer Reading list for teachers and parents. He has tried to avoid the summer block busters (like McEwan's Solar) but there is plenty to keep you going over the next few months. Click here to find out more and to listen to his Audio Boo (Seriously, the Internet must stop creating these things) on  his selection! Next up for me is Why Does E=Mc2 by Professor Brian Cox, the coolest scientist in the Solar System! Enjoy your holidays!

1 comment:

  1. Always appreciate recommended reading - life is too short for reading boring books.
    Currently reading "Darwin's garden" by Professor Steve Jones. Full of fascinating nuggets, many of which made for Ag Science.
    And just ordered "The Invisible Gorilla".
    Happy reading.