Nutshell – Ian McEwan

Told from a perspective unlike any other, Nutshell is loosely based on William Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’

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.” – A good book gets your attention from the very first line. 

And thus begins the narrative of an unnamed, unborn narrator – a foetus awaiting his birth. The foetus is a thoughtful contemplator, a lover of wine, and always enjoys a good podcast. But his young mind is troubled. His mother, Trudy, is having an affair with his uncle Claude (father’s brother) and they both are conspiring to kill his father. And he is a hapless witness to the conspiracy, and later to the execution of the nefarious plan. So worrying are the times that he wants to fall back and nostalgically 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 protagonist has a complex relationship with his mother. Time and again he explains how irrevocably in love he is with her, for she is intelligent and beautiful. This he has gathered from the poems and compliments his father lavishes on her. 

John Cairncross, the father, is a gentle soul, a poet and a romantic to the marrow of his bones. He might have none of his brother’s wealth and sexual prowess but he sure has a pure heart and an undying obsession with Trudy. Although he know little about him, the foetus loves his father. 

Here it becomes quite apparent that the plot is linear, and there are no ‘surprises’ or ‘twists’ to be expected. But the brevity of the book and an impeccable narrative makes it a delightful reading experience nonetheless. McEwan has illustrated how a strong and well written story can captivate the reader without relying on plot-twists.

Since our narrator has a very limited view point, this constriction is both debilitating and fascinating at the same time.

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes word plays or enjoys a well written phrase.

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