NATIONAL BESTSELLER • A “suspenseful, dazzlingly clever and gravely profound” (The Washington Post) novel that brilliantly recasts Shakespeare and lends new weight to the age-old question of Hamlet's hesitation, from the Booker Prize winner and bestselling author of Atonement.
Trudy has been unfaithful to her husband, John. What’s more, she has kicked him out of their marital home, a valuable old London town house, and in his place is his own brother, the profoundly banal Claude. The illicit couple have hatched a scheme to rid themselves of her inconvenient husband forever. But there is a witness to their plot: the inquisitive, nine-month-old resident of Trudy’s womb.
As Trudy’s unborn son listens, bound within her body, to his mother and his uncle’s murderous plans, he gives us a truly new perspective on our world, seen from the confines of his.
Don’t miss Ian McEwan’s new novel, Lessons, coming in September!
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
A woman plots to kill her husband with the help of her lover. We’ve read stories like this before, but never from the perspective Ian McEwan takes. The action in Nutshell is entirely narrated by the unborn fetus in the woman’s womb, who’s privy to all the deceit and treachery being plotted around it. It’s a gimmick that could be disastrous in less capable hands, but McEwan is a virtuoso. The baby’s musings on life outside the womb are as entertaining as the edge-of-your-seat murder plot…which gives a knowing wink to Hamlet.
McEwan's latest novel is short, smart, and narrated by an unborn baby. The narrator describes himself upside down in his mother's womb, arms crossed, doing slow motion somersaults, almost full-term, wondering about the future. His mother listens to the radio, audiobooks, and podcasts, so just from listening he has acquired knowledge of current events, music, literature, and history. From experience, he's formed opinions about wine and human behavior. What he's learned of the world has him using his umbilical cord as worry beads, but his greatest concern comes from overhearing his mother and her lover plotting to kill his father. The mother, Trudy, is separated from John, the father. John is overweight, suffers from psoriasis, and, perhaps most annoying for Trudy, loves to recite poetry. Trudy's lover, Claude, is a libidinous real estate developer who covets both John's wife and their highly marketable London home. Claude also happens to be John's brother. Echoes of Hamlet resound in the plans for fratricide, a ghost, and the baby's contemplation of shuffling off his mortal coil. The murder plot structures the novel as a crime caper, McEwan-style that is, laced with linguistic legerdemain, cultural references, and insights into human ingenuity and pettiness. Packed with humor and tinged with suspense, this gem resembles a sonnet the narrator recalls hearing his father recite: brief, dense, bitter, suggestive of unrequited and unmanageable longing, surprising, and surprisingly affecting. 150,000-copy announced first printing.
A remarkable tale from a unique point of view
In "Nutshell" Ian McEwan brings us conspiracy viewed from an unprecedentedly intimate perspective. Murder plots between lovers against a spouse are presented all the time, but by the unborn child within a conspirators womb? Remarkable. Happily, the work's clever and profound prose parallels, if not surpasses, the uniqueness of its POV, and we are drawn more deeply into the gut of a story than I certainly ever imagined.
This is a superior work product. It is unique and very much "literary," for lack of better word, and thus may not resonate with those who seek a more mainstream reading experience.
McEwan is a self-assured master, his writing by turns erudite, funny, wise and scathing. This story is wildly improbable, its narrator a precocious little nag, but it never flags as the perfect crime stumbles into error and a richly anticipated comeuppance looms. I love the author's writing not only for its well-informed flow and even majesty, but also for the witty, perfect little turns of phrase that pop up on every page. "Nutshell" is McEwan at his best!