A lot of people have been talking about Ian McEwan’s Nutshell. I’ve read that it’s original, that McEwan is subverting genres, and that it’s clever and incredibly entertaining.
I’ll be up front – I struggled to get through Atonement, so I might not be McEwan’s target audience.
But I do appreciate whodunits and I’m not sure that I appreciated this book.
Trudy is living in her husband, John’s, London townhouse. But she’s living there with John’s brother, Claude who she is having an affair with. (First of all, parents who call their first son John, are not going to follow that up with Claude. It’s just not going to happen.) The house is worth a lot of money and Claude and Trudy could both use some money. But the house belongs to John, who is still very much in love with Trudy and who hopes that they can still reconcile.
Especially for the sake of their unborn child. You may have heard that this book is narrated by the resident of Trudy’s womb, a male child who is privy to all of Trudy and Claude’s secrets and plans.
The elements of a good crime story were there – kind of reminiscent of Ian Rankin’s Doors Open where you get a front row seat to the planning of the crime, rather than the aftermath. But at some point, the precocious narrator started to wear on me – he started to veer into mansplaining territory.
As he meditates on right and wrong, attachments to his parents, the role of a son in saving the father, he comes across as so pretentious. I get enough of that in real life, I don’t need to spend time with those characters in my reading.
For my mother, so much effortful negation. How wearying, on top of all else (a hangover, a murder, enervating sex, advanced pregnancy) for my mother to be obliged to exert her will and extend fulsome hatred to a guest.
That’s another thing – Trudy gets drunk all the time. She’s hungover basically the entire time and there’s a lot of sex which I mostly just found icky.
I tried hard to find something about this book that resonated with me but I think it was just not for me. I’m sure if you took a quick peek online you would find that I’m one of the few.
Thanks to Penguin Random House of Canada for an ARC of this book. Any errors in quoting are due to coming from an unfinished version of the book.