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Ian McEwan has written a lot of books. Seventeen to date. It makes one wonder – Has he run out of stories to tell? Has he mined the depth of characters and their flaws? With Nutshell he answers defiantly. No one is safe, McEwan will tell you a good tale and it will be entertaining and uncomfortable all at the same time. In other words it will be wonderful.

Do not read this if pregnant


I feel guilty calling Nutshell wonderful, but it actually is. However please heed this one caution – do not read this if pregnant. Now that I have this off my chest we can proceed. You see Nutshell is narrated by a foetus, in its mothers womb. A foetus who has already developed a darkly wry sense of humour, and who has overheard everything going on in the life of his mother. Not a great mother in many respects. She enjoys a few drinks and is currently embroiled in an affair, with her husbands brother, and is not so subtly trying to claim ownership of his Georgian townhouse in London. What a wonderful place to start!

Nutshell - Ian McEwan

Our foetus is an entertaining narrator, even when things get a bit, mmm, physical. The mother likes listening to podcasts which give our foetus an interesting worldview. McEwan’s writing is claustrophobic and urgent, leaving the reading straining for a better understanding of exactly what is going on. All too quickly we are brought up to date with the illicit ploy between mother and her lover – to kill the husband. How very Shakespearian. We observe as the couple stumble and blunder through their murderous plans and as our narrator helplessly listens to the plan put into effect. A smoothie lover, an owl poet, a hat, the passports – so much vivid detail is given to fill out the story it is impossible not to want to know what happens.

The ending is simply perfect – if not inevitable


The writer has admitted that the concept for Nutshell is ‘irresistibly silly’ but a silly idea in the hands of a master makes for a unique novel. Coming in at under 200 pages it is the perfect remedy to a reading slump. I read this after trudging my way through a massive Irish family saga which basically was sad and boring so this was much needed. Quick, witty and wicked.

Keep track of the books I am reading here at my bookish Instagram account – Books Northern Ireland.