Nutshell – Ian McEwan

Ingenious is the first that comes to my mind when I think of this book. Of course mainly due to McEwan’s decision on the identity of the narrator. The book is narrated by a foetus. Trudy, the mother, has betrayed her husband and the baby’s father and together with her lover plots to kill him.

Initially I found the premise interesting and ironic, the baby is very overeducated for a foetus and definitely philosophically inclined. It knows a lot and thinks a lot, analysing its situation and trying to figure out who it should root for. On one hand it is still inside the mother’s womb, so it would be impractical to wish her harm, on the other hand she has not qualms when planning a murder and does not seem overly concerned with the baby’s fate.

I could not warm to the book, after the initial impression made by the choice of narrator is fades, the voice of the narrator becomes a bit irritating, extremely self-centered. I understand that all of this is ironic, but the irony is layered quite thick and at one point I ended asking myself what’s the purpose of all this. McEwan winks to us, the ‘intelligent audience’, but he winks so much that his eyelid seems to have gone into a fit of spasms. I did not like any of the characters, but I also didn’t hate any of them, they simply failed to move me, all of them including the baby. Plot was developed confidently, writing as always is of great quality yet approachable, but something failed in this book. I find McEwan books more and more uneven, the more I read, I will definitely read some more of his books, but my expectations will be lower, or maybe it’s better to say I will be less trusting.

What is your favorite McEwan’s book?

A few quotes:

…dull to the point of brilliance, vapid beyond invention, his banality as finely wrought s the arabesques of the Blue Mosque.

Pessimism is too easy, even delicious, the badge and plume of intellectuals everywhere. It absolves the thinking classes of solutions.

No child, still less a foetus, has ever mastered the art of small talk, or would ever want to. It’s an adult device, a covenant with boredom and deceit.

Photo by Violetta Kaszubowska

6 thoughts on “Nutshell – Ian McEwan

  1. I liked this one – I thought it was quite clever and he pulled off the narrator/baby. But I agree, his work is hit-and-miss. My favourites would be – Atonement, Chesil Beach and The Children Act,

    Liked by 1 person

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