review: ‘Nutshell’ by Ian McEwan

Image result for nutshell ian mcewan cover

What can I say about this one. Before we begin, this was my first McEwan. In hindsight I feel it might have been a mistake to start with his most recent work. One which is no doubt more experimental than some of his staple novels.

‘Nutshell’ is a story told like no other. The novel is narrated by a baby. One that is not yet even born, and is recounting the peculiar events unfolding before his birth, from inside the womb. The mother often gets drunk, thus so does the baby. And if you were ever wondering how to write a baby as pompous and instantly detestable – ask McEwan.

Trudy, the mother, has requested a break from her husband John. She has sent him off and he’s moved into a London flat while she takes possession of his dilapidated family townhouse that has been the marital home up until this point. Trudy has taken a lover, Claude, who we soon discover is in fact the brother of exiled husband John. It’s all starting to feel a little incestuous isn’t it?

You’ll be pleased to know that more than once in this novel our unborn baby recounts the sensation of feeling Claude’s penis pressing against his barely formed spine whilst Claude engages in sex with his mother. Being told this even once is one too many times if you ask me. Also the phrase ‘clitoral snood’ was mentioned at some point and the less said about that the better.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention. Claude and Trudy are actually plotting to do away with John (and the baby by the sounds of it), so they can stake claim to the house and the little money his Poet salary provides. Nice!

So, this was just a weird one for me. As a concept, I think its brilliant. Really original, and it certainly grabbed me with its peculiar synopsis. The first couple of pages hooked me in even, it was an oddly refreshing experience to read a novel narrated by a foetus. But let me tell you, if a foetus could narrate a story, it would not be as pretentious as this. He even goes off on little tangential rants about the state of the world from the information he has learnt through his mother listening to podcasts to cure her insomnia. It just got a little bit too ridiculous.

There is some suspense here, but we come to a fairly predictable ending in my opinion. Aside from an odd moment when an incorporeal figure appears in a doorway, it ended pretty much how I expected.

In conclusion, I am glad I picked this up, if only to say I have actually read some Ian McEwan. But I highly doubt this is his best work. Didn’t hate this though, and some passages I found extremely well crafted. Slightly outnumbered by the large amount of cringe though, but never mind. I’ll definitely be picking up something else by McEwan in the future. Any suggestions of where to continue, or perhaps start afresh, are welcome!

Thanks for reading.

sign off heartJess



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