Nutshell

  • by Ian McEwan
  • Narrated by Rory Kinnear
  • 5 hrs and 26 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

From the best-selling author of Atonement, Nutshell is a classic story of murder and deceit, told by a narrator with a perspective and voice unlike any in recent literature. A bravura performance, it is the finest recent work from a true master.
To be bound in a nutshell, see the world in two inches of ivory, in a grain of sand. Why not, when all of literature, all of art, of human endeavour is just a speck in the universe of possible things?

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What the Critics Say

"Short, fast-paced, expertly rendered by a voice it seems written for, this is flawless production, and pure entertainment." (AudioFile)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

McEwan Does It Again

McEwan's latest novel (more a novella, really) is a wickedly funny riff on Hamlet. "So here I am, upside down in a woman," the narrator--a fetus--begins. (He's "bound in a nutshell," so to speak.) If you're going to enjoy this book, you have to be willing to go with this premise; if you keep asking how a fetus could have such an extensive vocabulary and sophisticated thoughts, or how he could know so much about what is going on in the world outside the womb, you'll miss the fun.

Trudy is roughly nine months pregnant. Although she separated from her husband John, a not very successful poet and publisher, she still lives in the dilapidated family home in London that he inherited., while John has moved to a flat in Shoreditch. Trudy initially told him that they needed time apart to make the marriage work--but she is deep into an affair with his younger brother Claude, a real estate developer (who has about the same level of class as the current Republican presidential candidate). Despite her advanced pregnancy, Trudy and Claude engage in regular and vigorous sex, leaving our narrator to worry that he will have his fontanel poked in or will absorb some essence of the deplorable Claude into his being. He does, however, enjoy the finer wines that his mother imbibes and has developed quite the connoisseur's palate.

The trouble begins when John announces that he knows about and accepts Trudy and Claude's relationship, confesses that he has a new lover of his own, and states that he wants to move back into the family home. The plot thickens as Trudy and Claude decide that John must go--permanently. And our narrator is positioned to eavesdrop on their plans to murder his father and give him up for adoption. If Shakespeare's Hamlet was hampered by indecision, well, this protagonist is even more incapacitated by his unborn state. Literally and emotionally attached to his mother (he experiences every hormonal and adrenal shift), he is nonetheless horrified by the plot against his father's life and by the thought of Trudy giving him up to live with the detested Claude.

In addition to the obvious parallels to Hamlet, McEwan weaves well-known lines from the play into Nutshell, although the words are sometimes put into the mouths of unexpected characters and sometimes subtly changed, a word here or there. If you're familiar with the play, the effect is delightful--reminiscent of the way in which famous lines by the Bard keep popping up in Tom Stoppard's screenplay for "Shakespeare in Love." And McEwan brings it all to a climax that, in its own context, rivals the final scene of Hamlet. "The rest is chaos."
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- Cariola "malfi"

Alas poor phœtus! I knew him, McEwan

Alas poor phœtus! I knew him, McEwan: a fellow
of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy: he hath
borne me in his sac a thousand times; and now, how
abhorred in my imagination it is!

Seriously, Hamlet + 3rd Trimester + Conspiracy + Poetry = funky magic. According to Christopher Booker*, "there are only seven basic plots in the whole world -- plots that are recycled again and again in novels, movies, plays and operas." Ian McEwan sucks the Hamlet story right up into the Queen of Denmark's uterus. Not really. This is not Hamlet, rather Hamletesque. I'm going to have to carry this to be or not to be baby through a dreamless night to properly bring her to full-term.

Ian McEwan seems to have been drinking a lot with Martin Amis. This novel seems to be almost too clever, but it is so unique that he kinda pulls the little bugger off. Imagine Hamlet soliloquizing inside his mother as his uncle Claude bangs his c#@k against his mum's thin uterine wall. This is the twisted stuff of literature and art. This is where both dreams and nightmares are born and borne. This novella contains both the spilt seeds of life AND the unfrozen nectar of death. Out of the mouth of unborn babes and placenta-nursing fetuses - tipsy after mum has had her 4th wine - new truths about the world are discovered. I wander, but not far too far; trapped within a membrane, I don't want to give much away.

*This quote is actually directly from an April 2015, NYTimes review of his book The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories by Michiko Kakutani
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- Darwin8u "I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - Salinger ^(;,;)^"

Book Details

  • Release Date: 09-13-2016
  • Publisher: Recorded Books