At the Wall Street Journal, Joseph Bottum reviews Ian McEwan’s new novel Solar:
You ever see those old film clips of the early days of airplane flight? Wild contraptions of mismatched parts, flapping and shuddering as they stumble down the runway toward a cliff’s edge. Bird men who want to fly like swallows, plummeting to earth like turkeys.
I always get the feeling that I’m watching those clips while reading an Ian McEwan novel. There is no getting around the fact the man writes beautifully: passage after passage of precise, closely observed prose. Comedy when he wants it, pathos when he needs it, insight when he has it. But the whole thing is too often cobbled together with baling wire and chewing gum. A typical Ian McEwan novel—from the little-noticed “Child in Time” (1988) to the all-consuming “Atonement” (2002)—is a set of gorgeous wings, flailing up and down on plot hinges that creak as the pages go by.