Nutshell by Ian McEwan

Review published on December 4, 2017.

This story is told by a precociously articulate eight and a half month old foetus (well, his mother is an avid listener to Radio 4!) who has heard his mother and her lover plotting to murder his father. What can he do about it? Nothing, he fears, although he is determined to do whatever he can to try to influence events! However, what he certainly can do is entertain the reader with his feelings of outrage about this dastardly plot, a running commentary on events as they unfold and his observations on the adults who hold his future in their hands. In addition to all this, he offers his reflections on a wide range of issues – family relationships, politics, religion, class, spiralling house prices, philosophy, to name but a few! Superficially it is a hugely funny story but it is far, far more than that in its modern take on Hamlet (allusions to the Bard’s play abound) and its wide-ranging look at contemporary society. This is Ian McEwan at his wonderfully imaginative, creative, challenging, reflective, philosophical, railing best!

The story may well require a massive suspension of disbelief but the skill of the author and the taut, imaginative narrative and the wonderful black humour made it easy for me to do just that, and to settle back to enjoy a womb’s-eye view of life – or even, of death! I hope he had fun writing it because I certainly had fun reading it!

Linda Hepworth 5/4

Nutshell by Ian McEwan
Vintage 9781784705114 pbk Jun 2017

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