Christmas and New Year are done and dusted for another 365 days and now we’re left to face that old “new year, new me” chestnut. In a weird, twisted, roundabout way the book I chose for December is actually pretty apt. As apt as a narrative spoken by an unborn child with the intelligence and insight of a much older philosopher/ critic/ social observer who is witnessing the Hamlet-esque plot of his mother and uncle to kill his father can be. Yeah.
On that note, I should point something out: when the lady in the bookshop tells you a book is really weird, you should probably listen, not assure her that Ian McEwan is “always a bit weird”.
Whilst this is true, McEwan’s Nutshell truly transcends any weirdness that you’d expect from him, even after having read such oddities as Enduring Love.
Weirdness aside though, I actually really enjoyed Nutshell once I got past the fact that a nine-month old foetus should not have the sheer world experience of a 60-something novelist. Also, an unborn baby should absolutely, definitely not have the wine tasting palette of McEwan’s narrator. But both of these absolute discrepancies only add to Nutshell’s humour.
Because it really is hilarious. Not many books make me scoff quite as much as this one did. It’s not just the contrasts though. It’s the incredibly relatable and very true depiction of how incredibly stupid humans are. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the victim of said murder plot is a transcendent poet figure; a nod to society’s ever-shifting and fickle priorities that have begun to discount the importance of art and literature.
I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that this whole novel reminded me of Hamlet so strongly. What I think McEwan might be trying to say is that even 400 odd years on, we’re still the same base, instinctual creatures. And it takes someone who hasn’t been moulded into any one set identity to point that out. Hence an unborn baby.
To sum up my thoughts, Nutshell is at the same time incredibly bizarre, extremely insightful and a little bit critical of the world we live in today. In other words a really good bit of literature and a highly creative concept straight from the brain of one of the modern greats.