Ian McEwan’s latest novel Solar reminded me a lot of Richler’s Barney’s Version: a crotchety old man who eats too much, cheats on his wives, cheats his way through his professional life, is exceptionally self-deluding, dirty and grumpy. I loved Barney, I wanted him to figure things out, to be okay (thus the brilliance of the novel). I didn’t care one way or another whether Michael Beard had things work out for him in the end, and in the end he really did have a hell of a lot to be worried about: marriage, job, career, health, all falling apart and all I could wonder was when the book would stop making fat people out to be lazy slobs. When the ending did arrive it arrived unexpectedly – and not in the ha ha! surprise great twisty ending – but a reaction where I wondered whether the catastrophes facing Beard were too great to imagine any other way out then to kill him off. Not a poetic or justified or symbolic death, just a panicked, how to resolve the narrative death. Suffice it to say, disappointing. I admire the occasionally very funny moments of the text and the recognition of the ways in which politics and the press shape as much of science as the actual researchers do. Too bad the narrator was so unsurprising and un-affecting. And the terrible ending, let’s not forget that.