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3.67  ·  Rating details ·  45,230 ratings  ·  5,584 reviews
Nutshell is a classic story of murder and deceit, told by a narrator with a perspective and voice unlike any in recent literature. A bravura performance, it is the finest recent work from a true master.

To be bound in a nutshell, see the world in two inches of ivory, in a grain of sand. Why not, when all of literature, all of art, of human endeavour, is just a speck in the
Hardcover, First American, 208 pages
Published September 13th 2016 by Nan A. Talese (first published September 2016)
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Charles Monagan A boy. I found myself giving him the voice of Stewie in "Family Guy."
A boy. I found myself giving him the voice of Stewie in "Family Guy."
Melissa Cacace Cardito Yes, the POV is the unborn baby boy. He's at once omniscient and completely naïve. The prose is unbelievably beautiful and the baby's insight is timel…moreYes, the POV is the unborn baby boy. He's at once omniscient and completely naïve. The prose is unbelievably beautiful and the baby's insight is timely and relevant and NAILS the state of the world.(less)

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Average rating 3.67  · 
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Sep 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, england, ebooks
The start of this book feels like McEwan in elder statesman mode, sitting down at his laptop, rolling up his sleeves and saying, ‘Right, out the way, fuckwads, let me show you how it's done.’ It's so conspicuously brilliant, so controlled and aware and unusual, that although the rest of the book can't quite sustain the ferocity of the first fifty pages, still this rarely felt like it was going to be be getting less than full marks from me.

Nutshell is a sly contemporary version of Hamlet, where t
Elyse  Walters
Isn't that what everyone says to themselves when they read this?

It's so original, that I'm almost surprised it has not been written until now.
There is beautiful prose --- and then there is BEAUTIFUL PROSE!!!! I'm a little flabbergasted. I've been an Ian McEwan fan from way back...but this little slim book blows my mind. I think it's pure genius. Genuinely - I could not have loved this 'creation' more. I will definitely read it again.

I don't study Shakespeare- (my daughter did her ent
OMG OMG OMG! This book really did knock my socks off. In fact, it goes on my all-time favorites list. Who could resist this bizarro opening line?

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.

Okay, so there are some very good writers who can give you very good characters and very good metaphors and a very good plot with very good prose.

And then there's Ian McEwan. A genius. This guy, he's in a league of his own. His word p
Update 2: I found another interview with the author in a podcast. I had no idea McEwan is so funny. People at work were probably wondering why I was giggling while listening to this. Recommended!(it starts at minute 26 after the interview with Margaret Atwood).

Update: I found an interview of the author regarding the novel, how he got the idea to write it and where it stands in relation to his other works.

McEwan wr
Diane S ☔
A book that is narrated by an eight month old fetus. He describes what he see and hears, from his father and his love of poetry to the nefarious plans of his mother and his uncle, his father's own brother.

So why did I have such a disconnect with this book? The writing is wonderful, amazing in places. Was it that I had a hard time envisioning a fetus using this level of thought and speech? Not sure, though I did find myself occasionally shaking my head at the thought especially since I am not a
Sep 09, 2016 rated it did not like it
A modern retelling of Hamlet, narrated by the infant prince from inside his mother's womb. It is every bit as insufferable as that sounds.

Ian McEwan is one of those writers who, having been crowned an author of literature, thinks he can write any piece of cracked-out nonsense and know it will be treated as a serious work. Is he taking the piss? Who knows. What I do know is: this book is a joke. I've liked other works of McEwan's, although even my favorite, Sweet Tooth, contained elements that we
Hannah Greendale
Click here to watch a video review of this book on my channel, From Beginning to Bookend.

A nine-month-old baby boy resides in the womb of Trudy. Unaware that her baby is listening and is witness to all she does, Trudy concocts a sinister scheme with a mysterious cohort, a deceitful plan of betrayal and, possibly, murder.

Nutshell brings one of the most unique perspectives to storytelling. The limitations of writing an entire narrative from the viewpoint of a baby in the womb is not without its c
Jim Fonseca
Oct 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: british-authors
We know the plot (although not the outcome) from the blurbs and the first chapter. A pregnant woman is having an affair with her husband’s brother. He’s a dreamy type – a poet by trade, if we can consider that a trade, but he has inherited his family house in London worth millions. They plot how and when to kill him. He still loves her but they are separated; he’s living in a dingy apartment.

What gives the book its unique perspective is who is telling the story: the fetus of the pregnant woman.
Roger Brunyate
Hamlet in Utero
Oh God, I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself king of infinite space—were it not that I have bad dreams.
I could check online, I suppose, but I suspect there is a story here. Is it a coincidence that, within months of the launch of the Hogarth Shakespeare series, in which famous authors (so far Jeanette Winterson, Howard Jacobson, Anne Tyler, and Margaret Atwood) are asked to retell Shakespeare plays in their own words, Ian McEwan (surely the equal of any of them) s
Justin Tate
Oct 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hamlet in the womb! Literally. The protagonist is a philosophical, wine-loving fetus who gains great intellect from the podcasts his mother listens to.

This is my first time reading Ian McEwan but I'm instantly a fan. His prose is beyond gorgeous, in the same vein as Michael Cunningham who I also worship. Beware that some may consider Ian a "writer's writer" who gets indulgent with his vocabulary and frequently shows off, but with this plot the amplified language works.

It's fresh and evocative to
Apr 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Robin by: Bianca
Hamlet in utero: daring idea resonates with Bardly brilliance

We all know the basic concept of Hamlet, even if it's been years since we read it in university, or watched Kenneth Branagh's soliloquies (or Mel Gibson, ergh). He's the guy who's fretting constantly, whose fatal flaw is inaction. He can wax poetic like none other, but that's about all he does, bless him.

Well, Ian McEwan had the fantastical idea to resurrect dear Hamlet, in the form of a 3rd trimester foetus. Said foetus (who artic
The narrator is a middle-aged brain trapped inside an unborn baby, itself trapped inside a novel, the events of which the narrator can’t see happening because he's in the dark, much like the reader, but nonetheless, he, the narrator, can recount the events once he’s heard that they’ve happened, and his account is very entertaining even if critical of the crazy plot and unbelievable characters, but unlike the reader, who can abandon the book anytime she wishes, the narrator can’t seem to make up ...more
Sep 24, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A unique read but a tad too gimmicky for me.

Nut Shell by Ian McEwan is a story told from the perspective of a foetus. It's a tale of murder and deceit and is clever is its concept and prose.

Trudy has betrayed her husband John. She lives in the marital home which is a priceless London townhouse. She and her lover have a plan and its from the point of view of her 9 month old foetus that we lean what exactly is at foot.

I loved the opening line of the Novel " So Here I Am, upside down in a woman.
Jun 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: best-of-2017
Brilliant, twisted, witty and sardonic - the story itself seems a more George Saunders concept than Ian McEwan, but it's pure Ian McEwan in execution. The writing!! What language is this he uses to communicate with the reader? I know these words, but how he combines them is so pure, so organic, so perfect and true - I always feel as though I am experiencing the written word for the first time when I read him. Truly, I wish I could shake all the words out of his books and roll in them in pure hed ...more
Apr 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mcewan, 2017, ebook, reviewed

I have rather stormy relationship with Ian McEwan. I quite enjoyed some of his novels while other works, to put it mildly, were a big letdown. The more I read him the more I felt irritated with look at me and admit I’m so fucking brilliant, Ian . He has a knack of picking only topical issues but sometimes I thought he was too clever to his own good; if he hadn’t been so focused on willingness to impress a reader, if he was not so impersonal and allowed the reader to enter his thoughts, if he wa
Ruby Granger
Apr 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
I've got to say that this wasn't one of my favourite McEwan books, but that's not to say I didn't enjoy it. I would still hugely recommend it, mainly because of the narrative voice. The story itself is purely domestic (troubles within a relationship which become sinister *no spoilers*); however, it is told from the perspective of the woman's unborn child. The foetus listens to the world from the womb, deducing the nature of his parents and the world. Since we are a visual-driven culture, this is ...more
It’s become a bookseller’s cliché to say that it’s an event when Ian McEwan has a new book out. Of course, it’s nonetheless true, and this, his latest novel, was promptly added to my to-read list the minute I heard of it and ordered the minute it came out. That creates pressure, and expectations.

These four days later, I’m not so sure. Certainly Nutshell proves McEwan’s skill, if anyone was still in doubt, but within what, I’m just not sure. Shakespearean craziness? Unlikely narrator? Implausibl
In my mind’s eye is a vision of McEwan himself opening the door to detectives investigating a murder, and noticing everything about what they do, how they look, how their voices sound. He might begin to play on their curiosity a bit, making leading statements that drift off into nothingness…and then suddenly revive his tale with a stronger, quicker tone when they query his lead. Oh, you author of fictions, who plays so with our heads.

Oh course a real murder is not nearly so amusing as its fictio
Oct 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
Alas poor phœtus! I knew him, McEwan: a fellow
of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy: he hath
borne me in his sac a thousand times; and now, how
abhorred in my imagination it is!


Seriously, Hamlet + 3rd Trimester + Conspiracy + Poetry = funky magic. According to Christopher Booker*, "there are only seven basic plots in the whole world -- plots that are recycled again and again in novels, movies, plays and operas." Ian McEwan sucks the Hamlet story right up into the Queen of Denmark's uterus. Not
Jul 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: modern-lit, read-2018
My last experience of reading McEwan was On Chesil Beach which I found rather dreary and depressing and deterred me from reading his subsequent novels. Encouraged by the positive reviews, I have had this one on the shelf since the paperback came out last summer but have only just found the time to read it.

This is a book that really should not work, but it is a lively and enjoyable read full of surprises. Its central conceit - transplanting part of the story of Hamlet to modern Britain and making
Jan 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Update one week post reading: So, I am seeing now that this book is a re-telling of Hamlet!?!? How did I miss that!?

4 to 4.5 stars

Seems like this offering from McEwan tends not to get very high ratings, but I liked it quite a bit. It was more of a novella than a novel, but that is what I needed right now – a quick and enjoyable read!

The key to this book is that it is told from the perspective of an in-utero fetus with the intelligence of an adult. As I mentioned in one of my comments while I was

Not a fan of this one. I like weird and wonderful if it is somehow believable. It needs to be plausible if we accept certain premises, like when we read a story narrated by someone who’s died. Once we accept the narrator as the actual teller of the story, then we can ‘believe’ the rest of it.

In this case, the narrator is the soon-to-be-born baby still in Trudy’s womb, eavesdropping on her life with her husband's brother, Claude, and their scheming to be free of her husband, John. The baby re
A wildly snobbish neonatal persona, Fetus Cairncross, introduces himself to the world in no uncertain terms:
"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 confi
[Originally appeared here (with edits):]
Pessimism is too easy, even delicious, the badge and plume of intellectuals everywhere. It absolves the thinking classes of solutions.
This wonderfully sapient insight springs somewhere in the middle of this book and almost gives away the rationale behind McEwan’s choice of protagonist - a fetus.

Yes, this 200-odd pages of scheming a murder is seen through the eyes of a fetus from the womb of his mother, a party
Iris P

Nutshell: A Novel

Nutshell A Novel by Ian McEwan

I think it would be inappropriate to use the word I am thinking of to describe this novel, because you know, polite company and all. Let's just say that Ian McEwan apparently set out to mess with our minds when he wrote this. This was the most wicked, mind-bending, highly original, maddening brilliant story! So I guess I am saying I love it.
Will come back with some thoughts :)

Oct 06, 2016 rated it really liked it

In Nutshell, a sort of modern take on 'Hamlet', a son becomes aware that his mother Trudy and her lover Claude are planning to murder his father John - who happens to be Claude's brother. The twist in Ian McEwan's novel is that the son, and narrator of the book, is a late term utero.

The not-yet-born baby, who's preternaturally knowledgeable and articulate, explains that he got his smarts from overheard conservations and the many podcasts his mother listens to. (The descriptions of
Julie Christine
In the time it took me to write this review, Ian McEwan has written at least one more novel. I mean, seriously. Dude is prolific. Also brilliant. Deliciously dark and witty and, dammit. Even with his novels that I can't say I like, I never cease to marvel at what he can do with same words we all have at our disposal.

A master of restraint and brevity, McEwan's short works are perhaps his most astonishing literary achievements, and his latest, Nutshell, is a twisted wee delight.

The tale is narrat
Ron Charles
Aug 14, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Nutshell,” Ian McEwan’s preposterously weird little novel, is more brilliant than it has any right to be. The plot sounds like something sprung from a drunken round of literary Mad Libs: a crime of passion based on Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” narrated by a fetus.

That it should come to this!

If you can get beyond that icky premise, you’ll discover a novel that sounds like a lark but offers a story that’s surprisingly suspenseful, dazzlingly clever and gravely profound. To the extent that “Hamlet” is
Dec 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, favorites
“To be bound in a nutshell, see the world in two inches of ivory, in a grain of sand. Why not, when all of literature, all of art, of human endeavour, is just a speck in the universe of possible things.”
― Ian McEwan, Nutshell: A Novel

Ahhh! I want to squeal in sheer delight at this book! I've never read a book this genius before, and especially not one from a writer who is deeply self-aware but also wonderfully modest at the same time.

The line I quoted is just one of a seemingly endless number
Bam cooks the books ;-)
#2016-aty-reading-challenge-week-49: a book with a great opening line. "So here I am, upside down in a woman. Arms patiently crossed, waiting, waiting, waiting, and wondering who I'm in, what I'm in for." Actually, the entire first paragraph is tremendous--the plot told through the point of view of a fetus.

And this is no ordinary fetus. This one has been listening to podcasts through his mother's earbuds and already knows a great deal about world events, politics, environmental concerns, etc. A
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Ian McEwan studied at the University of Sussex, where he received a BA degree in English Literature in 1970 and later received his MA degree in English Literature at the University of East Anglia.

McEwan's works have earned him worldwide critical acclaim. He won the Somerset Maugham Award in 1976 for his first collection of short stories First Love, Last Rites; the Whitbread Novel Award (1987) and

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