Wednesday, March 29, 2017

NUTSHELL by Ian McEwan

Only Ian McEwan could write a novel whose first-person narrator hasn’t been born yet—or named, for that matter.  In fact, I’m not sure that his parents know that their unborn child is a boy.  From inside Trudy’s womb, our narrator, who speaks like an erudite adult, is the proverbial fly on the wall who witnesses the hatching of a murder plot.  Yep, it sounds like Hamlet, because Claude is Trudy’s lover, and he is the brother of estranged husband John, the intended victim.  Trudy and Claude are bumbling, would-be murderers, and, as best I could tell, they don’t really even have a strong motive.  Anyway, the novelty of having an in-utero narrator is very appealing; he’s listening at the keyhole of every conversation between the two conspirators and trying to decipher how this scheme is going to work out for him.  Claude and Trudy plan to put him up for adoption, and the baby expresses a clear preference for staying with his mother, despite her obvious lack of a moral compass and complete disregard for the health of the fetus; she drinks like a fish, and the poor kid can barely keep his wits about him, especially since he’s now positioned upside down.  Plus, living in another household might be far preferable to being born and raised in prison.  This book is very clever, with a cheeky baby spouting forth opinions on everything from wine to preferred foreign refuges for fleeing felons, with or without extradition agreements.  And Ian McEwan’s prose and dialog never disappoints:  “What’s said hangs in the air, like a Beijing smog.”

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