[675]: Nutshell by Ian McEwan

29940500 Nutshell by Ian McEwan
Knopf Canada | September 13th, 2016
Source: ARC from Penguin Random House Canada
Literary Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars


Ian McEwan is a literary superstar, and this is McEwan at his very best. Nutshell is the most amazing novel from the greatest of writers gloriously entertaining, wonderfully imagined a mesmerizing thriller to delight all readers.

“Oh God, I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself king of infinite space were it not that I have bad dreams.”
Shakespeare: Hamlet

Nutshell is an altogether original story of deceit and murder, told by a narrator with a perspective and voice unlike any in recent literature. Love and betrayal, life and death come together in the most unexpected, moving ways in this sensational new novel from Ian McEwan, which will make readers first gasp with astonishment then laugh with delight. Dazzling, funny and audacious, it is the finest recent work from a true master, beautifully told, brilliantly executed.”


I have been a big fan of the Hogarth Shakespeare enterprise since its inception. The books give me an opportunity to see Shakespeare’s work in a new light. Althoughย nothing could ever be great as the original, I enjoyed the contemporary versions better because they’re written in a language I can understand. Sad but true.

However, I’m surprised to learn that Nutshell isn’t actually part of the series. There’s a lot of speculations going around as to why McEwan’s name isn’t attached to the bevy of the modern literary luminaries who signed on. My take? This book was already in the works before he was approached. In any case, Nutshell could’ve easily been stacked with the rest of them. Because it was predictably brilliant and McEwan gave his interpretation a life of its own.

Admittedly, I’ve not read Hamlet. Nor have I seen the plays so you can call me out on it because I don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about. I haven’t a clue what the premise was but I’m sure it’s something preposterously dazzling. Nutshell is, in essence, a weird, vivid little masterpiece. Told through an unborn fetus’ point of view, it tells the story of a crime of passion involving its mother and her lover plotting the demise of her husband. The baby in utero narrates the story as he sees it unfold. Desperate to understand how his mother could ever do such a thing, baby x goes through the impossible task of trying to stop them from causing fatal harm.

This fetus is very awake, an existential thinker who worries about the state of the world politically and environmentally. He feels for his father – in debt and alone because his mother threw him out of his own house. He’s insightful which some would consider unrealistic. But that’s the beauty of McEwan’s writing. He convinces you that it’s okay; be merry and go with the flow. I know I was convinced. Ridiculous narrator or not, Nutshell is moving in its own right; funny at times, and jarring in a way that you wouldn’t expect.

  • I’m with you, I haven’t read Hamlet. Looks like the author did a good job with this though, ridiculous narrator or not!! ๐Ÿ˜œ

  • I was wondering why I hadn’t heard about this one in tandem with Hogarth Shakespeare, but it makes sense if this one might have been in the works before then or something. But it’s pretty cool and seeing as I’ve been liking the HS books I’ve been reading, I am so going to try this one as well!

  • Ohh, lovely review Joy ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m glad you enjoyed this book so much ๐Ÿ˜€ It is not a book for me, with that narrator thingy o.O Sounds so weird, haha. But I’m glad you still liked the book ๐Ÿ˜€ Yay. Thank you for sharing sweetie. <3

  • Of all the Shakespeare lit we read in high school, Hamlet was my least favorite. I’ve only read Shylock in the Hogarth Shakespeare collection, and I’ve been meaning to get to Vinegar Girl. A shame this isn’t part of the series, but I’m still going to read it.

  • I haven’t read Hamlet or watched any adaptations either, Joy. For some reason the story intimidates me. Well, I guess most of Shakespeare intimidates me and I’m always worried it will be some tragic ending, which I guess most are, right? Happy to hear you loved this. Maybe I’ll give it a shot when I’m feeling ambitious! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • It does sound incredibly weird, but I’m oddly curious now!

  • shootingstarsmag

    I love unique narrations and I am so curious about this one! I have read the original Hamlet, so I think a new way of reading it would be great.

    -Lauren
    http://www.shootingstarsmag.blogspot.com

  • This is the strangest thing I’ve ever heard of. I’m not sure if this would be for me, but you definitely have me intrigued!

  • I haven’t read him in ages, I should though

  • I think I’ve been seeing this everywhere. I was worried that it would either border on the ridiculous or succeed. Now I’m very curious about this book and I do think I’ll add it to the huge wishlist. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Keertana @ Ivy Book Bindings

    I haven’t picked up anything by McEwan since that one book of his that got turned into a movie with Kiera Knightley? I’m totally blanking on the name, and maybe even the author is different, but this sounds really interesting and I adore Shakespeare, so I’m definitely going to add this to my TBR. Thanks for the rec, Joy! Also–been meaning to tell you, I read Dark Matter and LOVED IT. Such a good rec, dear, THANK YOU!

  • RO

    I’ve never heard of these, but I sure remember having to read Hamlet as a kid in school. It took me a while to warm to Shakespeare, but it was great reading. I like the idea that someone has the courage to put a spin on such classic writing, and this one sounds interesting. Great review! Hugs…

  • kindlemom1

    I didn’t know about these, it sounds like a great way to get some Shakespeare without the old world speech. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Jasprit

    Oh wow I’m liking the different take that McEwan provides with this book, it would be so hard to believe the narrator, but I would love to see how it works! I’ve only read one book by McEwan before and despite it being really out there I really liked it! I will certainly be checking this book out too! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • I haven’t read anything by Shakespeare either but your review of this book has me considering giving it a go. Hmm. Thanks for the review, Joy! I love how you read a wide variety of books. I tend to stick to what I know and love.

  • The story is told from a fetus point of view? Well, that is def something new.

  • I never had the chance to read anything by Shakespeare but well in France it’s usually some other authors. This one looks interesting