My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I'll say up front that I'm a big McEwan fan. This novel is not so dark as many of his are and is actually the first time he has ever made me laugh. It is excellent!
.....SPOILER alert (but only a small one, and not plot related...)....listening to the scene where he describes his main character trying to get dressed in Artic gear had me in stitches - how many times did he put the gloves on only to have to take the gloves off again to stow his lipsalve, to put on his boots etc etc....then a rework of the classic "don't go to the toilet when its 20 below story" and I could see slap stick and cinema houses erupting. Very unusual for this writer, I am trying desperately to think of another truly rip-roaringly funny episode in a McEwan and failing.
The typical McEwan "twist"/ "incident" tipping point comes quite early on and from them on it has you hooked as to exactly where he will take the storyline. By the end part of me felt just a tiny little unsatisfied with the ending plotwise, but another part of me just smiled as ......SPOILER ...as all his lives work is falling down before him, he found what had been alluding him all the time because he hadn't been looking for it.
That said, I absolutely loved reading this book. It has one of McEwan's best characters ever in Professor Michael Beard. He was just so real to me. With his inability to look after his balding, overweight, drunk body, his inability to hold together any of his 5 marriages whilst having no problem at attracting the opposite sex, with him being a Nobel Prize winning physicist who finds himself working on artificial photosynthesis as an answer to the world's energy needs and potentially a way to combat climate change - saviour of body Earth versus destroyer of his own!
Throughout I had this vision of Bill Nighy doing a Robert De Niro / Raging Bull and putting on several stone to play Micheal Beard. It seems to me that this part is made for Nighy's mix of straight and comic acting ability, his droll voice, his on screen chemistry. Can't wait to see what they do with it as a film.
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