Join us every Sunday for our new series, Books We Love. We will be sharing staff reviews off all the books they have been catching up with lately. This week Richard from Brompton library is talking about Nutshell by Ian McEwan.
A slither of a book that seems to want to escape its confinement and declare itself a king of infinite space, like the quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet – on which this story is reimagined, it may resonate currently with our sense of confinement and exclusion from everyday life during these days of Pandemic, when the contrasts between interior and exterior spaces, private and public are strongly felt.
The narrator, an unborn child, exists ‘dreamily in the bubble of (his) thoughts,’ a consciousness represented with a unique first person perspective that aside from passing judgement on the cultural habits of the characters around him, finds time to comment on the meaning of existence, not unlike Hamlet in his frequent ‘bubble’ soliloquies.
Hamlet’s atmosphere of surveillance and mistrust within a decaying State, is neatly reinterpreted by McEwan into the confines of a womb; the pregnant mother, Trudy, betrays her husband, John and then plots his murder with her brother in-law, Claude. The setting is located in a dilapidated Georgian house in London – former childhood home of her husband, whom she has recently ejected on the basis of a trial separation: ‘allowing time and space to grow and renew bonds.’
Like the play within the play in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, there is buried within this novella a little gothic horror story that simply adds to the fun and humour of McEwan’s book. The language is poetic and comic grotesque. At one point the narrator tries to hang himself with his umbilical cord.
Nutshell, a slightly macabre pastiche of domesticity in crisis, is a great little read that has the playfulness of a child at its heart.
Nutshell is available to download from our cloudLibrary here. Or you can listen to it on RBDigital here. All you need is your membership number and if you are not a member, don’t worry. Just click here – it’s completely free to join and use our resources.