He simultaneously spoofs crime fiction and finds a novel mouthpiece for a mordantly entertaining and exhilarating … commentary on the modern world. The Sunday Times (London)
By Roger Childs
Many readers will recall our regular book reviewer, Ralph McAllister, warmly recommending this highly creative novel last year.
Ian McEwan ranks with the likes of fellow Englishmen William Boyd and Sebastian Faulks in being able to consistently craft stories which are original, challenging and highly readable.
Nutshell does require a huge suspension of disbelief, as our narrator from the womb has high level cognitive skills, amazing powers of perception and university level erudition. However, it is definitely worth making the literary leap of faith to accept this unlikely raconteur, as he has a fascinating tale to tell.
Womb with a view
Our commentator is understandably attached to his mother Trudy, but is perturbed about the break-up of her marriage and a plan she is hatching. Husband John, a publisher and poet, has been tossed out of his house because Trudy says she needs some space as she staggers through the final month of her pregnancy.
In reality she wants as much time as possible with her lover, John’s brother Claude, and the couple set about plotting the demise of the seemingly hapless husband.
Our friend the foetus doesn’t miss a trick and needless to say is close to all the action, some of which he would rather avoid notably when Claude becomes amorous. Nevertheless, through it all he provides wonderful observations on the behaviour of the lovers, the ways of the world, the meaning of life and even the quality of fine wine.
A master storyteller
As always with McEwan, there is a rattling good story, plenty of food for thought and an entertaining mix of suspense, drama and humour.
However, what sets Nutshell apart is the scenario of a narrator who is providing the inside story in a way that’s never been done before.