Monday, March 29, 2010

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Books completed this past week:

32.Solar*** by Ian McEwan UK 2010 (285 pages)

I'm always excited by a new McEwan novel and have never been disappointed, until now. I've read and enjoyed Amsterdam****, Black Dogs****, Enduring Love****, Saturday***** (my personal favourite), Atonement****, and On Chesil Beach**** as each was published. Solar is satire, so not cup of tea to start with. McEwan's writing is as good as ever and I generally don't mind unlikeable protagonists but I did not like this story. I'm glad I read it but I hope his next book isn't satire. The nice thing about his work is that each story is unique, he's not just writing a variation on the same old story like some.
In Solar he is satirizes scientists, their competitiveness, stealing of others' ideas, grants and wasted resources, greed, etc. It's been declared a very funny book by the bigger critics but I wasn't laughing. He also has a go at adulterous males, trendy artists who talk about solving world problems but don't do anything, and people with eating problems (which I was not pleased about). And there is no excuse for his use of an urban legend that would get anyone else laughed out of high school if passed off as creative writing. I hate to think he may have used it to mock another writer who claims to have actually experienced this incident, which was a hoary old chestnut when I heard about it thirty years ago. The main character is a Nobel scientist and McEwan's writing makes the science very easy to follow. But this man gets away with everything and nothing redeemed the story for me I'm afraid. 
If you're a McEwan fan, or a completist like me ( I'm continuing to work on his backlist), you'll want to read Solar but this book is not worth the cover price. Borrow it from the library. And please let me know what you thought, leave a link if you review it. Maybe I'm off my trolley on this one.


33.Vinegar Hill**** by A. Manette Ansay US 1994 (240 pages)

Recommended by Dollycas who did a fascinating bio and review of Ansay's books for Roadtrip:Writer's of Wisconsin at Dollycas' Thoughts. I enjoyed this story, despite it being too close to home for comfort at times, and recommend it. I will be reading more of Ansay's work as soon as I get my hands on some.

34.Wild Dogs***** by Helen Humphreys Canada (186 pages)

I really enjoyed this story. Six people are brought together by the common factor of their missing dogs. Their individual stories unwind as they meet every evening in hopes of finding their pets again. Loneliness, trauma, loss of one kind or another are very well expressed here by the writer of Coventry***** which I also read and reviewed. Highly recommended. 

Books in hand:

The Golden Mean by Annabel Lyon Canada 2009

It's about Aristotle taking in hand and trying to teach the boy who would become Alexander the Great, son of Philip, king of Macedonia. Winner of the 2009 Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize, 2009 Governor General's Award of Canada Finalist, 2009 Giller Prize Finalist. That's the three big ones in Canada. It's fascinating, I can only imagine the amount of research it took to make the story seem so believably real.

Darkness Visible by William Golding UK 1979

Yes, the Nobel laureate wrote Lord of the Flies, which I read in high school and hated. I've enjoyed his essays and thought I'd give his fiction another chance. It's about a boy who survived the London Blitz badly scarred and a social misfit because if it. I'm enjoying it though I haven't a clue where it's going. Reminds me of Ben, Doris Lessing's The Fifth Child somewhat but this young man is not evil.

Benny & Shrimp by Katarina Mazetti Sweden 1998

A humourous love story between two middle-aged Swedish loners that's just warming up. It seems like light fare so far.

Next up:

The Butterfly Chair by Marion Quednau Canada 1987

Awarded the 1987 Books in Canada Best First Novel Award.

Breaking Lorca by Giles Blunt Canada 2009

2009 Governor General's Award Longlist - My son (37) and I have read and loved every book he's written.

Please leave comments or links if you've read or reviewed any of these books. I'd love to read them. What are you reading that's got you excited?


  1. I hate it when a favorite author lets me down like that. I hope you have a fantastic reading week!

  2. I received Solar this week. Interesting post...i'll have to read it and see what I think.

  3. Wow you have some good looking titles here. Have a good week - I would love to read some of your reviews on these books.

  4. I read Vinegar Hill probably 4 years ago now and it has still stayed with me. The story was so sad but real. I am glad to hear you enjoyed it as well.

  5. I'm sorry Ian McEwan let you down. I'm hoping to read Solar this week, and I've never read his work, so I have middling expectations. I know he's one of the best writers writing today in English, but there are plenty of writers I respect but don't enjoy. Enjoy reading!

  6. I have not read any of these books, but I read Lord of the Flies some years ago. I could see it was unusual in some ways, but I found it overrated.

    I seem to be reading (and enjoying) a lot of Scottish crime fiction right now. Most of them are excellent at setting and characters.

  7. I've never read one of McEwan's books!! Loved Vinegar Hill and Wild Dogs sounds like one I could really enjoy!

  8. I'm sorry to hear you weren't crazy about SOLAR; I'm stil optimistic for myself though as I enjoy a good biting satire. So we'll see! :-) Have a great weekend.

  9. Saturday was your favorite McEwan book? I have to admit that I couldn't get into it and have been apprehensive to read another. Do you have one that you would recommend next?

  10. I have not been able to read McEvan yet... but I definitely not read Solar to start with :)
    You had a great week last.. and I hope you have a better one still ahead :)

  11. Maybe I enjoyed Solar more because it's the first McEwan I've read? It seems most who've read more by him don't really like it as much as his other work.

    Thanks for your comment, I'll add your review to the list & I'm off to explore your blog now.

  12. I've read several disappointing reviews on Solar? Not sure if I will read it or not. I did enjoy reading your thoughts; thanks so much Sandra

  13. I actually enjoyed Solar. I enjoy a good satire, and personally I like when an author tries something different now and then. Thanks for your review!

  14. I'm actually one of those readers who actually enjoyed Solar. I don't mind when authors try to do something different, actually, and I liked it mainly because of its satirical nature. I found you through Cym Lowell's page, by the way!

  15. I'm here from Book Review Wednesday. Maybe I'll try Solar. I like satire and this may be a good fit for me.

    Aloha from Rob

  16. Wow - Solar and A. Manette Ansay in the same post. Fantastic!

    Let me explain...I also disliked Solar, despite the pre-game jazz about a new McEwan, at long last. I thought it just too cynical, despite the fact that it is a satire of scientific fervor resembling religious fervor. Here's my review:

    Ansay: LOVED Vinegar Hill. I actually had her as a teacher for a creative writing seminar at Marquette University many moons ago, and was just wowed by her. But I read her book before that and had loved it even before I'd met her. She gave me a B- though, which made me unhappy. ;)

  17. Sandra: I just started Solar yesterday and I am sucked in. So far, it has be chuckling and wishing I could curl up and read it in one go. For one reason or another, I really enjoy books about middle aged men behaving badly. Since this one reminds me of David Lodge or Kinglsey Amis -- both masters of such books -- I am enjoying it a lot.

    Like you, I am a McEwan fan and a completist, so I'm reading them all. The one I am not looking forward to is The Comfort of Strangers because I watched and hated the movie.



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