Nutshell, by Ian McEwan

You'd be hard-pressed to find a more British book than this. At least not one that has been published in the last decade or so. McEwan's modern take on Hamlet is steeped in British inflection and erudition - dare I say smugness? I personally love dry British wit and big words, but this was perhaps even a little much for me.

This is not, shockingly, the first book I have read this year with a fetal narrator. Yes, our hero is in utero, two weeks from his projected birth date yet already wise beyond his years, despite not knowing what the color blue looks like (or green, or any color other than fleshy pink). But he knows his mother, Trudy - young, beautiful, scheming - and his father, John - poet, hopeless romantic, enormous - and his mother's lover, Claude - boring, vapid, horny. If you don't already know the plot to Hamlet, prepare for spoilers: the fetus has become aware that Trudy and Claude are dastardly planning to murder his father and abscond with the millions of pounds they'll get from selling his decrepit but extremely well-located house. It's only halfway through the book that Baby discovers that Claude is - gasp! - his own uncle, John's younger brother.

It's really quite entertaining, but if even I had to look up a few words, I doubt the general reading public would enjoy it. The baby is pretentious, snobbish even, but manages to be likable, if only because his predicament is so ludicrous. His mother's being bonked by his father's brother and they're planning to murder John and do...something...with himself; what's an unborn baby to do? As a thought experiment, it's intriguing and fun. As a novel, it's perhaps a little less successful, and mercifully brief.

Though it really does have a fantastic first line.

Indie Bookstores FOREVAAA!


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