Book review: Nutshell by Ian McEwan

9780385542074

Title: Nutshell
Author: Ian McEwan
ISBN: 9780385542074
Pages: 208
Release Date: September 13, 2016
Publisher: Nan A. Talese
Genre: Literary Fiction

New from the bestselling author of Atonement and The Children Act

Trudy has betrayed her husband, John. She’s still in the marital home—a dilapidated, priceless London townhouse—but John’s not there. Instead, she’s with his brother, the profoundly banal Claude, and the two of them have a plan. But there is a witness to their plot: the inquisitive, nine-month-old resident of Trudy’s womb.

Told from a perspective unlike any other, Nutshell is a classic tale of murder and deceit from one of the world’s master storytellers.

— From Penguin Random House

Ian McEwan is definitely among my top favorite writers of all time. He first enchanted me with Atonement, then went on to shock me with The Cement Garden, and finally completely entranced me with the morbidity of The Comfort of Strangers. He is the master of writing blunt, entangled, and dark relationships that you cannot help, but be tempted to spy on through the author’s keyhole. I really should read McEwan more often.

The most interesting angle for me in this book is its narrator – the nine-month-old fetus, – whose observations and commentary go well beyond his years or experience. He enjoys the wines his mother Trudy occasionally drinks, dreams of good books accompanied by Bach, and despises Claude – his mother’s new lover. This not-yet-born child weighs in on infidelity and his father’s submissive nature, discusses how much of Claude or John resides in his own psyche, and tries to convince himself of Trudy’s love, despite the ever-increasing evidence to the contrary.

As usual, the story turns to a dark angle once John, the father, finally attempts to assert himself in his own house. Claude and Trudy’s character development from there on reminds me a lot of The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain, and applaud McEwan for bringing classic mystery noir elements to contemporary audience. The plotting, the moral degradation, the mistrust and suspicion finally culminate in a rather ironic finale that is both inevitable and satisfying.

Ian McEwan’s writing is trim, without excessive tangential subplots, but doesn’t skip on some punchy philosophy sprinkled throughout. It’s a pleasure to be submerged into, naturally. If you loved any of the darker novels by this author, I guarantee you’ll love Nutshell. Otherwise, keep an open mind and I’m sure you’ll get along just fine!

Purchase this book: BookDepository

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