Ian McEwan is one of those authors I’ve been meaning to read for a while, but haven’t gotten around to; I’ve had a copy of Atonement sitting on my shelf for years. But when I heard about his newest novel, I knew I had to get my hands on it. Nutshell is unlike anything I’ve ever read before, and I think it was a brilliant introduction to McEwan’s masterful writing.
(From Goodreads) Trudy has betrayed her husband, John. She’s still in the marital home a dilapidated, priceless London townhouse but John’s not here. Instead, she’s with his brother, the profoundly banal Claude, and the two of them have a plan. But there is a witness to their plot: the inquisitive, nine-month old resident of Trudy’s womb.
Nutshell was an interesting new take on Hamlet, told from an incredibly unique perspective. I loved that the narrator of the story was an unborn fetus, since he was able to observe almost all of the action of the story without interfering or influencing the actions of others in any way. He is very much a part of the story – his presence is an inconvenience for his mother, who seems to have little regard for him, and complicates the plot to murder his father – but is essentially an outside observer. He also cares about each of the other players, so he is definitely not objective, even though he can’t interfere. It’s an interesting concept, and I think McEwan definitely pulled it off. The main character is extremely intelligent – he understands things far beyond what I child would understand – which I thought might be annoying, but it was done very well. He’s a quirky little thing (his mother drinks enough that he has become quite picky about his wine), and is a fun narrator for a dark story.
I also enjoyed the portrayals of the other three main characters, particularly Trudy and Claude. Trudy in particular is painted in an interesting light, since she is already kind of a terrible mother, though she has yet to give birth, but is still loved by her child. He is conflicted about her desire to murder his father (although he acknowledges his father is probably not worthy of his mother), and spends much of the book trying to figure out what he thinks of her. Should he forgive her? Or are her actions unforgivable?
The writing itself was incredible! There was just something about it that felt like it had been produced by an experienced writer. It was a pleasure to read (or listen to, since I did opt for the audiobook version, which I highly recommend).
I did really enjoy this book! I thought the narrator was brilliant, and the mystery was well executed. I can’t put my finger on why this wasn’t quite a five-star book for me, but it was close.
After reading Nutshell, I am much more inclined to pick up another of McEwan’s books. If you’ve read any of his work, let me know what your favorite is!