Joni M. Fisher

Nutshell by Ian McEwan

When my book club pals suggested we read Nutshell, the selling point was “you won’t believe the point of view.” Our club has read books that tell stories from the point of view of a dog, a dead girl, a drunk, and a madman, so sure, I was game to read this book. The other selling point was the author was Ian McEwan whom we love with a deep readers’ passion for his elegant, breathtakingly beautiful story Atonement. We were all in for the ride.

Cover of Nutshell by Ian McEwanI suspect the point of view for Nutshell was decided on a dare from other writers, over drinks. “Bet ya can’t find a new point of view no one has ever done before.” And McEwan, being the talented award-winning author he is, said, “Hold my beer.” He tells a story of marital discord from the point of view of a fetus. Yes, a fetus. He has done far more with this story than readers might expect simply because he is a masterful storyteller. There are a few cheats, places in the story in which the main character knows things he could not. And this fetus has McEwan’s vocabulary. I had to look up the meaning of lambent (glowing), cludgie (bathroom), and exequy (funeral rites). Thanks for that. But as a book lover, I had to suspend my disbelief with both hands, high overhead, page by page to the bitter end.

This is my least favorite McEwan book. The literary critics will no doubt hail it as brilliant, groundbreaking, mind-expanding prose. Which will inevitably lead to imitators, heaven protect us. Just as Anne Rice revived interest in vampire stories, should we expect more stories told from in utero? Or will the millennial authors go one step further with stories told from the perspective of inanimate objects, possibly a murder weapon or a pen? Please, no more explorations of life from a womb. Let’s all agree it’s been done and move on.

I admire McEwan’s talent so much I will read his next book, and try to forget about this one for reminding me with every page that the writer was at work.

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