Nutshell: A Novel by Ian McewanNutshell: A Novel by Ian Mcewan

Nutshell: A Novel

byIan Mcewan

Hardcover | September 13, 2016

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From literary superstar Ian McEwan Ian McEwan comes Nutshell, a gloriously entertaining, wonderfully imagined novel—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." 
--William Shakespeare's Hamlet

Trudy has betrayed her husband, John, who trusts and adores her. She's living in the marital home--a dilapidated, and priceless London townhouse--but John's not there. In his stead is the profoundly banal Claude--and together they're hatching a murderous plan. But there is an unexpected witness to their plot, who cares deeply about the outcome: the inquisitive nine-month-old inhabitant of Trudy's womb.

Told from a perspective unlike any other, Nutshell is riveting--an unforgettably original, wickedly entertaining, novel of murder and deceipt from one of the world's master storytellers.
IAN MCEWAN is the bestselling author of sixteen books, including the novels The Children Act; Sweet Tooth; Solar, winner of the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize; On Chesil Beach; Saturday; Atonement, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award and the W. H. Smith Literary Award; The Comfort of Strangers and Black Dogs, both shor...
Title:Nutshell: A NovelFormat:HardcoverDimensions:208 pages, 8.53 × 5.92 × 0.86 inPublished:September 13, 2016Publisher:Knopf CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0345812409

ISBN - 13:9780345812407

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Rated 1 out of 5 by from No Nope. No. No. Boring, dry and totally unfeeling. Could not care less about any of the characters.... So disappointed.
Date published: 2017-07-25
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Satirical but dry McEwan is a great writer. This was an interesting, dark, philosophical, comic tale about a fetus that witnesses the planning/execution of his father's murder. I will say, though, this was not my favourite McEwan and at times it was hard to get through. The short length made it easier but overall I was not blown away.
Date published: 2017-06-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it You will be in for a treat. Amazing.
Date published: 2017-04-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from great My first book by him lovedit.
Date published: 2017-03-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from What a story! I nice addition to your library.
Date published: 2017-03-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good read Another good story from IM; great characters, too.
Date published: 2017-03-20
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Thought it would be better Didn't really like the ending, wanted a bit more as to an aftermath, but was funny at times.
Date published: 2017-02-06
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Interesting Very interesting, creepy and intriguing. Not a favorite but Ian Mcewan is clearly a talented writer and I'm interested in reading more of his books now.
Date published: 2017-02-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I loved this This is my first novel by this author. I'll read more
Date published: 2017-01-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Worth a read! Full Transparency - I won a complimentary copy. I was a fan of McEwan before this book so I was excited to receive a copy in the mail. I had read the blurb of what the book was about but was unprepared for how funny, quirky and offbeat it was for a plot to murder one's husband. In a nutshell, (yes I said it-i'm even repeating it!) I liked this book. The story is meh, we've all heard it before but what is interesting and original is the voice of the narrator. The unborn child of Trudy and John gives us his intelligent and heartfelt rundown of what goes on behind closed doors. Although he doesn't know what the colour blue is, he certainly knows a lot about life, love and good and evil. Trudy is 8 months pregnant and despises her husband John. She is beautiful, self centred and greedy and is using her pregnancy to keep John out of his family home. The home itself is dilapidated but worth millions and Trudy wants it. Also, keeping John out of his home allows her to carry on with his brother Claude. Together they are planning on killing John and splitting the money. So as I was reading and listening to the perspective of the baby, I have to say I was a little creeped out. I am a mother and carried two babies. The thought of any self aware fetus is horrid. I cringed when reading the blow by blow sexual encounters between Claude, the brother and Trudy. We know that Claude and Trudy plan on giving the baby away but Trudy's disregard for the health of the baby is uncomfortable. She barely eats and loves to drink wine - a lot of wine. So much so that the baby has his own preferences. These are such taboos in today's society it is hard to have any empathy for Trudy. Except when you hear how the baby just wants to be loved. Even though she is planning on killing his father, even though she doesn't want him, a child just wants to be loved. It is a quick read and although it won't rock your world, this novel is something that I think you will enjoy!
Date published: 2017-01-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great novel I loved this novel, highly recommended.
Date published: 2017-01-22
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not quite a Fetus Detective Early on when a friend described the gist of the plot to me as an unconventional thriller, I exclaimed "a fetus detective!" When it came time to read "Nutshell", I couldn't shake off the image I'd conjured in my head about what this story was. It has taken me months to finish this slim novel because I couldn't reconcile what it is versus what I thought it could have been. It is pretentious and gimmicky, yet has a unique vantage point and gorgeous prose. It thrills, yet drags. It is quite spectacular, yet quite dull and overdone. Very Shakespearean, and as these descriptive terms would seem to be applicable to too. In a nutshell, while this novel is my first attempt at an Ian McEwan and despite my lukewarm response, it is by no means the only one I will have in my library. I am positive the precocious narration of our fetus detective will pop in my head once in a while.
Date published: 2017-01-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great read I had never read him before and was quite impressed
Date published: 2017-01-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great read Thought it started a bit slow, but I was wrong. It quickly became addicting, and was a page turner. Well written, poetic, and a different perspective on who is telling the story.
Date published: 2017-01-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A unique must read! This story is told exclusively from the perspective of a baby in his mother's womb. He is funny, witty and yet an adorable baby who loves his mom and dad. I was very satisfied with the ending though some might not be.
Date published: 2016-12-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful Fantastic author, wonderfully written story.
Date published: 2016-12-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Masterful Beautiful prose and a thrilling story.
Date published: 2016-12-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Love Pretty great so far! Almost finished and just started a couple days ago. must read.
Date published: 2016-11-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved What a unique, fresh take on a domestic thriller. Without giving away too much of the plot, as it is still largely under wraps, Nutshell felt very Shakespearean to me, with the exceptional familial relations, and dark humour. Perhaps the most memorable narrator I have ever encountered. It is impossible to finish this book and not immediately want to re-read, and talk about with others.
Date published: 2016-05-24

Read from the Book

So here I am, upside down in a woman. Arms patiently crossed, waiting, waiting and wondering who I’m in, what I’m in for. My eyes close nostalgically when I remember how I once drifted in my translucent body bag, floated dreamily in the bubble of my thoughts through my private ocean in slow-motion somersaults, colliding gently against the transparent bounds of my confinement, the confiding membrane that vibrated with, even as it muffled, the voices of conspirators in a vile enterprise. That was in my careless youth. Now, fully inverted, not an inch of space to myself, knees crammed against belly, my thoughts as well as my head are fully engaged. I’ve no choice, my ear is pressed all day and night against the bloody walls. I listen, make mental notes, and I’m troubled. I’m hearing pillow talk of deadly intent and I’m terrified by what awaits me, by what might draw me in. I’m immersed in abstractions, and only the proliferating relations between them create the illusion of a known world. When I hear “blue,” which I’ve never seen, I imagine some kind of mental event that’s fairly close to “green”—which I’ve never seen. I count myself an innocent, unburdened by allegiances and obligations, a free spirit, despite my meagre living room. No one to contradict or reprimand me, no name or previous address, no religion, no debts, no enemies. My appointment diary, if it existed, notes only my forthcoming birthday. I am, or I was, despite what the geneticists are now saying, a blank slate. But a slippery, porous slate no school­room or cottage roof could find use for, a slate that writes upon itself as it grows by the day and becomes less blank. I count myself an innocent, but it seems I’m party to a plot. My mother, bless her unceasing, loudly squelching heart, seems to be involved. Seems, Mother? No, it is. You are. You are involved. I’ve known from my beginning. Let me summon it, that moment of creation that arrived with my first concept. Long ago, many weeks ago, my neural groove closed upon itself to become my spine and my many million young neurons, busy as silkworms, spun and wove from their trailing axons the gorgeous golden fabric of my first idea, a notion so simple it partly eludes me now. Was it me? Too self-loving. Was it now? Overly dramatic. Then something antecedent to both, containing both, a single word mediated by a mental sigh or swoon of acceptance, of pure being, something like—this? Too precious. So, getting closer, my idea was To be. Or if not that, its grammatical variant, is. This was my aboriginal notion and here’s the crux—is. Just that. In the spirit of Es muss sein. The beginning of conscious life was the end of illusion, the illusion of non-being, and the eruption of the real. The triumph of realism over magic, of is over seems. My mother is involved in a plot, and therefore I am too, even if my role might be to foil it. Or if I, reluctant fool, come to term too late, then to avenge it.

Editorial Reviews

“Until the exciting day when McEwan . . . is awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, his numerous and ardent fans enjoy the regular appearance of his highly intelligent and compellingly provocative novels. McEwan can be counted on to make the implausible plausible and the outrageous reasonable, and his talent in that regard is put to its consummate test in [Nutshell]. Startling at first but quickly acceptable and even embraced, this mesmerizing tale is narrated by an unborn, male fetus. . . . [H]e takes matters into his tiny little hands, which brings this ingenious tour de force to its stunning conclusion. As soon as words gets out, any new novel by this bestselling, Booker Prize–winning novelist causes a reader frenzy.” —Booklist (starred review)“Everyone . . . should read Ian McEwan’s Nutshell. . . . McEwan’s command of language is just gobsmacking, even in his sixties; the wonder is that he is hilarious as well. He makes aging look brilliant.” —Ian Brown, author of Sixty, The Globe and Mail“A peculiar and philosophical novel that features what is perhaps the most ingenious literary conceit of the year.” —The Globe and Mail“McEwan’s latest novel is short, smart, and narrated by an unborn baby. . . . Echoes of Hamlet resound in the plans for fratricide, a ghost, and the baby’s contemplation of shuffling off his mortal coil. The murder plot structures the novel as a crime caper, McEwan-style—that is, laced with linguistic legerdemain, cultural references, and insights into human ingenuity and pettiness. Packed with humor and tinged with suspense, this gem resembles a sonnet the narrator recalls hearing his father recite: brief, dense, bitter, suggestive of unrequited and unmanageable longing, surprising, and surprisingly affecting.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)“Ian McEwan’s delicious new novel, with its foetal narrator, is comedy gold. . . . In Nutshell, McEwan is a pentathlete at the top of his game, doing several very different things equally well. Current literary culture rarely awards gold medals for comedy, but this is one performance—agile, muscular, swift—you should not miss.” —The Times“[T]he familiar story retains a strong forward momentum. . . . [An] elegiac, masterpiece, a calling together of everything McEwan has learned and knows about his art.” —The Guardian“[A] smart, funny and utterly captivating novel. . . . Like his 1998 novel, Amsterdam, Nutshell is a small tour de force that showcases all of Mr. McEwan’s narrative gifts of precision, authority and control, plus a new, Tom Stoppard-like delight in the sly gymnastics that words can be perform. The restrictions created by the narrator’s situation—stuck inside a maternal nutshell—seem to have stimulated a surge of inventiveness on Mr. McEwan’s part . . . [His]little homunculus is, by turns, earnest, mocking, sarcastic, searching and irreverent . . . It’s preposterous . . . that a fetus should be thinking such earthshaking thoughts, but Mr. McEwan writes here with such assurance and élan that the reader never for a moment questions his sleight of hand.” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times“Nutshell turns out to be a sparkling and gripping tale thanks to a batty conceit that somehow works extremely well. This is McEwan at play, giving us a short, sharp, sophisticated entertainment.” —Daily Express (four stars)“At once playful and deadly serious, delightful and frustrating, it is one of McEwan’s hardest to categorise works, and all the more interesting for it. Giving it the title Nutshell doesn’t mean it can easily be placed in one.” —The Times“In Nutshell, we see a bookish mind at play. And it turns out that a fetal Hamlet—bound, watching the inevitable event grow nearer, an extravagant and erring sprit confined in doubts and impotence—is actually just about right. . . . Nutshell is a joy: unexpected, self-aware and pleasantly dense with plays on Shakespeare. It isn’t Hamlet, and doesn’t particularly illuminate Hamlet, but dances beautifully with it. . . . For a good adaptation, play is the thing.” —NPR“[A] compact, captivating new novel. . . . [F]ormidable genius. . . . Is there another writer alive who can pull off a narrative line of this sort? . . . The writing is lean and muscular, often relentlessly gorgeous. . . . The literary acrobatics required to bring such a narrator-in-the-womb to life would be reason enough to admire this novel. But McEwan, aside from being one of the most accomplished craftsmen of plot and prose, also happens to be a deeply provocative writer about science. His musings are often oblique and tangential—yet he manages to penetrate the spirals of some of the most engaging quandaries in contemporary science. . . . Cognizant readers might recognize in Nutshell the influences of Richard Dawkins (about whose work McEwan has written thoughtfully) or Daniel Dennett—and a good dose of Agatha Christie—but it hardly matters: The pleasures of this tautly plotted book require no required reading.” —The New York Times Book Review“The latest novel from Ian McEwan is like nothing we’ve read before. Nutshell is a gripping domestic drama told from a very unusual perspective: a baby in the womb. Sounds strange, but it works.” —Good Housekeeping   “Ian McEwan had form when it comes to creating arresting first-person narrators, but he excels himself with his latest novel, Nutshell. . . . [T]he conceit’s an ingenious one, and McEwan carries it off with aplomb—it really shouldn’t work, but it does. . . . [B]rims with life. In a nutshell, shall we say, it’s a corker.” —Tatler   “Nutshell is a classic story of murder and revenge, told in an astonishing act of literary ventriloquism unlike any in recent literature. A bravura performance, it is the finest recent work from a true master.” —The Guardian“It takes a lion’s nerve to rewrite Hamlet from the viewpoint of a fetus, a stunt conceived and sweetly achieved by Ian McEwan in his latest novel, Nutshell. McEwan’s 197-page thimble brims with literary allusions, social commentary and murderous intrigue. . . . McEwan[’s] prose is always exquisite. . . . His Nutshell is a stunt, but a gorgeous one, studded with Joycean reflections on fathers, the wisdom of pop songs and reviews of placenta-filtered fine wine.” —The Washington Times“[D]evilishly clever and darkly humorous. . . . In Nutshell, McEwan cleverly pulls off what might be little more than a gimmick in the hands of a lesser novelist. That he persuades us to suspend our disbelief so readily here is a testament to his consummate skill.” —BookPage“A sparkling, witty re-imagining of Hamlet starring an unborn baby. . . . As an example of point of view, you can look no farther than these gorgeous pages, which not only prove that brevity is the soul of wit but also offer the reader a voice both distinctive and engaging. . . . Can he [the unborn narrator] warn his father? If too late, can he avenge him? And how? The answers to these questions will keep the reader speeding through every page, each one rife with wordplay, social commentary, hilarity, and suspense. . . . Hats off to Ian McEwan. I’ve worn my Ticonderoga to a nub drawing a universe of stars in the margins of this charming book.” —The Boston Globe