Apres-midi des lectures – In A Nutshell by Ian McEwan

The dislikes were that it was repetitious and too long. Missed the some of the Shakespearian lines and alignments, ie to Hamlet, There were some very boring pages and it would have made a good short story. You had mixed feelings and were not sure if you liked it. It was verbose, and the author was listening to himself. A lot of ‘lyrical nonsense.’ The passage about the sea food was not liked, and totally ridiculous. The story a highly illogical concept! Not enjoyed because it was too sophisticated, snobbish, wine and food references ridiculous, ranting about the state of the world and listening to podcasts thought too absurd . You missed the Hamlet references. Elaborate and artificial with too much poetry.

On the whole it was enjoyed by over half the group. You said that there was suspense, it was a thriller, you needed to read to the end to find the outcome and most of you said that McEwan’s writing was brilliant. It was clever and funny, and a ‘page turner’. The concept , original, thought provoking and brilliant. It was based on the theme of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but that was missed by most of us until we had read the reviews! The character of the brother in law or Beouf, and of course, lover, was thought to be delightfully obnoxious and villainous. with John the foetus’s father more complex and interesting. You were amused that the foetus already understands everything and speaks like a middle aged man who also tries to commit suicide as did Hamlet. The foetus loves his mother and obviously needs and relies on her. You liked the first and the last sentences ‘Here I am” and the last Chaos!!! The foetus discusses and rants about the state of the world, loves very, very good wine and food. You suggested that it was a viciously cruel novel. Some of you felt that it was the just the right length, the dialogues rich, and that McEwan was making fun of the satire of his own culture. Wine descriptions interesting. A story which makes you think and read twice by some of you. Ian McEwan at the ‘top of his game’ .and can do anything with language! We wondered how much we knew before our birth but this was not discussed in great length. The foetus’s listening and learning from ‘podcasts’ extraordinary, contrived but fun! You loved loved the description of the ‘awful house’. How could such a perfect person (Trudy) live in such a hovel? Most of you enjoyed the novel from beginning to end. You thought he was a learned foetus, and very sophisticated. You mentioned that you liked it when he said ‘Dear Father before you die’, and that in-spite of what he knew he still wanted to be part of ‘it’, his life to be. You thought his mother, Trudy, was unfeeling and with no love for him, but that she was the victim of the selfish Claude because of her sexual needs. Prey to Claude who only loves money, sex and wine. Of course Trudy and Claude cannot escape the baby is almost ready to be delivered! A clever and pessimistic story, but sad at the same time. Perhaps Trudy doesn’t really like Claude. Was her behaviour the effects of her hormones in pregnancy. John had really loved Trudy and his letter about his love for her was touching. You noticed that McEwan seems only to write about privileged, rich and successful people who live in central London!!!!

Hamlet dies, you hoped they lived.

There is a book by Carlos Fuentes’s, Christopher Unborn, book written similar concept, foetus speaking.

“Oh God, I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space–were it not that I have bad dreams.”

February’s book is The Plot Against America by Philip Roth and will meet on February 13th, The Chateau in Saujon, Salle Aramis.