[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. Although¬†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.