Review: Nutshell


By Ian McEwan
Anchor Books, 9780525431947, May 2017, 224pp.

The Short of It:

A clever take on Hamlet as told by a fetus.

The Rest of It:

You don’t need to be familiar with Hamlet in order to enjoy Nutshell but it certainly helps.

Trudy leaves her husband John for his brother, Claude. Together, Trudy and Claude come up with a plan to murder John. The house they occupy is quite valuable. With John out-of-the-way, they could potentially make quite a bit of money. But their plan is not a secret to Trudy’s unborn child. The child is fiercely loyal to his mother and somewhat loyal to his paternal father, John, Mostly because he cannot stand the vile Claude.

This is not a new idea. Movies like Look Who’s Talking have provided platforms for the unborn to voice their opinions but in Nutshell, Trudy and John’s child is very well-spoken, a wine connoisseur (due to his mother’s affinity for drink) and hilarious with his high-brow take on the dim-witted plan these two have hatched.

Nutshell is very literary and clever and superbly written. I’ve read many of McEwan’s books and all of them have been good, with Atonement being my favorite. However, Nutshell was very enjoyable. It was a book club pick and many in the group agreed that it was humorous in its own way, but some felt it was a little over-the-top with its pretentiousness. I didn’t mind that part of it and had no trouble suspending my disbelief over the fetus telling the story, but the scheme these two come up was riddled with holes from the beginning so believability in that regard is non-existent.

Have you read it? I think some readers are intimidated by McEwan and if that’s the case, I recommend Nutshell because it’s not as heavy as some of his other books.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

18 thoughts on “Review: Nutshell”

  1. I disliked Atonement so much that I just didn’t read anymore of McEwan’s work. I’ve heard about this one for some time and thought it sounded interesting, but I just am not a fan of his. Glad you enjoyed it so much 🙂

  2. I admit the narration by the fetus is a bit off putting to me. I glad you enjoyed it though! I loved Atonement, but haven’t read anything else by McEwan yet. I have a couple of his other books on my TBR shelf though. On Chesil Beach and Saturday, I believe.

  3. I think I need to read Atonement again because I didn’t get a lot out of it compared to everyone else. This one has always caught my eye; I love the cover for some reason. I will be putting this on my “someday, maybe” list!

    1. Oh yeah. This one is pure McEwan in the writing but a fun take for sure. There was one person in our group who did not find the fetus funny at all but the kid is drinking (via the placenta) and his commentary is pretty funny to me.

  4. I liked his novels Atonement and Amsterdam though Nutshell sounds different — a fetus telling the story? whoa. I need to read of his others first.

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