Friday, July 7, 2017

Summer Reading: Nutshell

I am a huge fan of Ian McEwan! I've read and enjoyed many of his books (Enduring Love and Atonement are my favorites) so I was quite eager to start Nutshell, the next selection on my summer reading list. This novel is a contemporary retelling of Hamlet which, of course, made me even more excited.  Rather unusually, the first-person narrator is the unborn fetus (a rather loquacious fetus) of a woman named Trudy who, with her lover Claude, is plotting the murder of her husband and Claude's brother, John. The fetus hears all of their discussions and tries, unsuccessfully, to foil their plan and save his father. The action builds and builds into an ingenious conclusion (half of the fun for me was trying to figure out how the fetus could affect the outcome and it didn't disappoint). I loved the fetus' description of being inside the womb and his account of what it was like for him when Trudy and Claude have sex is highly amusing. I also really enjoyed all of the fetus' philosophical musings about the state of the world, such as global warming, over population, religious extremism, and identity theft (Trudy listens to a lot of public radio when she can't sleep), and his worries about being born into such a world with an unreliable mother, a despicable uncle, and an absent father. All of the sly references to Hamlet, including the title, are such fun and I suspect that I will have to read this again to find all of them. I particularly enjoyed the fact that Trudy is absolutely complicit in the murder of John because I always go back and forth in how I feel about Gertrude's involvement in the death of King Hamlet. McEwan's prose is so beautiful and I found myself going back to reread certain passages. While I was sometimes exasperated with Cline's hyperbolic descriptions in The Girls, I think the removal of even a single word in this novel would result in diminishment. I highly recommend this clever and captivating novel.

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