Review – Nutshell by Ian McEwan


Long time no see! Five weeks ago, I had nose surgery and I might even do a little blog post about what it was like. I almost look the same and I can already breathe so much better now!
In those five weeks, I participated in another LovelyBooks reading group. This time, we read Ian McEwan’s latest novel Nutshell.

Image provided by Jonathan Cape¹

His home is his mother Trudy’s womb and he has already been in here for about nine months. It is at this point in his life when he notices his mother and her lover Claude making plans to murder someone and his options to interfere are very limited.

Nutshell is told from the perspective of an unborn boy. This young tot spends his time listening. He listens to conversations going on around him and he listens to podcast lectures, self-improving audio books and the BBC World Service. This is why he has an impressive word range that would put most grown-ups to shame. The way he expresses himself, however, isn’t very authentic. To me, this isn’t the voice of an educated unborn, it is the voice of an educated, adult narrator – the voice of Ian McEwan.

The plot of Nutshell is inspired by Hamlet and the plot structure reminds me of Freytag’s Pyramid with exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution. That does, however, depend on what you think the climax is. In my opinion, it is an outstanding monologue by the baby boy’s father John. After this climax, the plot just takes its course and there isn’t much suspense.

Since I read The Children Act two years ago, I have to say that I think Ian McEwan could have done a better job with Nutshell. Don’t get me wrong, this novel reads well and is written in brilliant prose, but there has to be a way to find an authentic voice for our little baby boy that doesn’t sound like the author himself.
Nevertheless, I’m glad I read Nutshell. This way I had the chance to read this wonderful monologue I was talking about earlier. So if you’re curious about life from the perspective of an unborn infant and a very special monologue, you might as well start reading now.

3 Star Rating: Recommended

A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher.

Review – The Children Act by Ian McEwan


Before I’m off to Frankfurt Book Fair, I’d like to share another review. Thanks to Penguin Random House UK I had the pleasure of reading Ian McEwan’s latest novel The Children Act in a LovelyBooks reader’s circle.

The Children Act
Image provided by Jonathan Cape¹
Synopsis quoted from Jonathan Cape¹:

Fiona Maye is a leading High Court judge, presiding over cases in the family court. She is renowned for her fierce intelligence, exactitude and sensitivity. But her professional success belies private sorrow and domestic strife. There is the lingering regret of her childlessness, and now, her marriage of thirty years is in crisis.

At the same time, she is called on to try an urgent case: for religious reasons, a beautiful seventeen-year-old boy, Adam, is refusing the medical treatment that could save his life, and his devout parents share his wishes. Time is running out. Should the secular court overrule sincerely held faith? In the course of reaching a decision Fiona visits Adam in hospital – an encounter which stirs long-buried feelings in her and powerful new emotions in the boy. Her judgment has momentous consequences for them both.

My Thoughts:

The Children Act is set in contemporary England and from the very first page, Ian McEwan draws you into Fiona Maye’s world with detailed descriptions of her surroundings.

Fiona is an introvert High Court judge approaching sixty who has been living by the rules for all her life. She has problems showing her feelings and in consequence her marriage suffers. When Fiona meets Adam, a young man suffering from leukaemia, her world starts spinning. Adam, who is almost 18, is very different from Fiona. He is overly self-confident, poetry-writing know-it-all and he is determined to live his short life to the fullest – finally, a teenager acting like a teenager.

The Children Act is built around a theme that some might be bored by and it is written in beautiful, refined prose that can be hard to understand for those who aren’t advanced speakers of English. But please don’t be put off by the complex language and the law theme, as McEwan manages to give you insight into a world unknown to most of us, and while I was sceptical at first, this book kept me glued to the pages. So go on and read this riveting novel about life and the choices you make.