Michael Beard is a phyisicist who has seen his glory days as a young man and is since living off his nobel prize fame. He goes from one failed marriage to the next, while moving through a series of meaningless positions in various projects. But then he gets a chance to call a project into life that works on artificial photosynthesis and could revolutionize the world’s energy household. But the way Beard gets the project going is not exactly legal.
The novel so didn’t work for me. I just didn’t connect with Beard, I didn’t see the humor (that everybody else apparently sees) and I generally struggled to actually finish the book.
I was very curious to read a McEwan novel that was touted as being funny. I mean, so far his books have been mostly shaped by the utter despair that they ooze. But I guess, funny in a McEwan book just means that you don’t want to open your veins after finishing the book (and it suckerpunching you repeatedly in the reading process), because I did not laugh. Not once.*
If the novel had concentrated more on the science side, instead of Beard’s completely uninteresting private life, I might have gotten more out of it. Because the science was really fascinating. Artificial photosynthesis is a brilliant idea and possibility and I hope that somebody is on it in real life, too.
But I just couldn’t get over how little Beard interested me. It’s not even that I didn’t particularly like him (though I didn’t), but I just really didn’t care about him. I need relatable characters in a story to make it work for me. I need to care about them one way or another (maybe I want to see them succeed, maybe I want to see them fail, but I have to be interested in where their story is going). And McEwan just didn’t manage that with Beard.
Basically I just finished the book beause I thought something was yet going to happen. At the point that I realised that nothing was, I was so far in that I might as well finish it.
Summarising: yeah, no, not my cup of tea.
*More and more I suspect that I’m turning into the proverbial humorless bitch. But usually the failures and failings of other people are not really all that funny, are they?