Book Review of Nutshell

unknown“The condition of the modern foetus.  Just think: nothing to do but be and grow, where growing is hardly a conscious act. The joy of pure existence, the tedium of undifferentiated days… now I live inside a story and fret about its outcome”.

John Donne invited us to see the world in a grain of sand… and in Nutshell, Ian McEwan invites us to see the world through the most unusual of narrators – an unborn baby.

His only experiences of the world stem from his physical and emotional connection to his mother – a careless woman who drinks expensive wine, has developed in the baby a taste for fine dining, and callously sleeps with her husband’s brother – all while pondering the possibility of murdering him.

This casts the baby in the role of unwilling accomplice.

While it would be easy to imagine this perspective as a childish one, the narrator is a creature of fine and sophisticated sensibilities – a genius even who has absorbed the world through the radio, through literature and intelligent conversation. He can express opinions on poetry, global issues and politics – but he cannot stop this murder from occurring.  After all, what can the unborn really do to affect the world around them?

An original and relatively even piece with some beautiful prose and clear connections to Shakespeare’s Hamlet.  Likely to resonate with readers long after they have turned the final page.


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