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Nutshell
Cover of Nutshell
Nutshell
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Trudy has betrayed her husband, John. She's still in the marital home, a dilapidated, priceless London townhouse, but not with John. 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.
Trudy has betrayed her husband, John. She's still in the marital home, a dilapidated, priceless London townhouse, but not with John. 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.
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  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from July 25, 2016
    McEwan’s latest novel is short, smart, and narrated by an unborn baby. The narrator describes himself upside down in his mother’s womb, arms crossed, doing slow motion somersaults, almost full-term, wondering about the future. His mother listens to the radio, audiobooks, and podcasts, so just from listening he has acquired knowledge of current events, music, literature, and history. From experience, he’s formed opinions about wine and human behavior. What he’s learned of the world has him using his umbilical cord as worry beads, but his greatest concern comes from overhearing his mother and her lover plotting to kill his father. The mother, Trudy, is separated from John, the father. John is overweight, suffers from psoriasis, and, perhaps most annoying for Trudy, loves to recite poetry. Trudy’s lover, Claude, is a libidinous real estate developer who covets both John’s wife and their highly marketable London home. Claude also happens to be John’s brother. 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. 150,000-copy announced first printing.

  • AudioFile Magazine Actor Rory Kinnear, so memorable as King Henry IV in "The Hollow Crown" series, assumes an equal challenge in conveying the sly humor and grim comedy of McEwan's tour de force. Based on the Hamlet story and told by an unborn fetus, this is a novel of voice and perspective. As the unborn listens to his mother and uncle plot his father's murder, he offers a commentary that ranges into history and social values, ethics and philosophy. His worried consciousness filters a helter-skelter of broadcasts and conversations and secondhand contacts with the world, and a fearful contemplation of his own impending future. Short, fast-paced, expertly rendered by a voice it seems written for, this is flawless production, and pure entertainment. D.A.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award � AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine
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Nutshell
Nutshell
Ian McEwan
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