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review 2017-03-06 16:51
Nutshell by Ian McEwan
Nutshell: A Novel - Ian McEwan

Trudy has betrayed her husband, John. She's still in the marital home—a dilapidated, priceless London townhouse—but John's not there. Instead, she's with his brother, the profoundly banal Claude, and the two of them have a plan. But there is a witness to their plot: the inquisitive, nine-month-old resident of Trudy's womb. Told from a perspective unlike any other, Nutshell is a classic tale of murder and deceit from one of the world’s master storytellers.

Amazon.com

 

 

 

 

Ian McEwan brings readers a murder mystery told from the unique perspective of an unborn child. Trudy is nearing the end of her pregnancy but is currently estranged from her husband... because she threw him out. Not for infidelity or anything like that... no, she'd just grown a little bored and dissatisfied with the man. Trudy gently opens up the "maybe it would be good for us to have some time apart" conversation which ends in husband John moving out and shortly thereafter John's brother Claude secretly taking his place.

 

A night of heavy drinking gives Claude and Trudy the inspiration to end John's life. At this point, our unborn narrator expresses his concern over what kind of situation he's being born into... he explains having a natural desire to love his mother as one tends to feel towards someone keeping you alive and all... but all this talk of murder weapons and methods leaves him unsettled! Listening in on conversations through the stretched skin of his mother's womb, baby-narrator doesn't get the impression that John is all that horrid, despite what Trudy's wine-loosened lips might say. A 6'3 teddy bear of a guy, John seems to be a people-pleaser, which annoys Trudy. She finds him weak and kind and considerate to a fault (aka total doormat of a guy). But baby-narrator reasons that there are definitely worse traits to find in someone -- just look at John's brother, Claude! Dumb as a bag of rocks, obsessed with having sex multiple times a day, making lewd comments or gestures when not in the actual act, table manners of a Neanderthal. What is Trudy thinking?!

 

All in all, I had mixed feelings about this short novel (less than 200 pages). For much of it I was thinking plot-wise this thing was about a 2. Just not enough tension for me. But then I realized I was actually having some fun reading these characters, just them as people. Claude grossed me out most of the time, and I was stumped trying to make sense of Trudy's thought process, but she does make a little more sense when you get closer to the end. I actually ended up feeling a bit sad for her. Still not cool that you were throwing back so much wine though, girl. Seriously. 

 

What truly carried the story for me was the thin vein of dark comedy McEwan weaves into everyone's narratives. The surprise visit from John and Trudy's casual:

 

"Claude, darling, kindly put the glycol bottle away." 

 

LOL, I may be a little twisted but I love that kind of humor. 

 

The unnamed, unborn narrator -- at first I was a little troubled thinking,"This is an unborn child, how would he have such a developed intelligence about him?!" but an acceptable explanation for that is later provided. But that intelligence gives him an already-done-with-it-all edge to his voice that I enjoyed. 

 

 

I also grew to like John, in the few scenes he appears. He struck me as a good dude, if maybe a little neglectful, a little oblivious of Trudy's growing discontent before she booted him. The doormat impression is strong with him until one scene where he gives a quiet speech, subtle in tone yet darkly funny which is directed at Trudy and has an unspoken "I'm on to you" kind of message. Trudy and I were similarly left speechless! But then he snaps out of it, they get to talking about the good ol' days, John reminiscing about when he and Trudy met, back when he enjoyed reciting poetry and was a javelin thrower on the track & field team. This leads into my favorite exchange in the whole book:

 

Trudy: "I never want to hear another poem again."

John (pointing to his brother, Claude): "Well, you certainly won't get any out of that guy."

 

BOOM. And then he just leaves. Yep, I liked that John.

 

The inspiration for the title of this book comes from a line in William Shakespeare's Hamlet, which McEwan references before the story begins. While this little novel of his is not a direct retelling, I could definitely see inspiration and likenesses between the two throughout. 

 

 

FTC Disclaimer: Doubleday Publishers kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book & requested that I check it out and share my thoughts. The opinions above are entirely my own.

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text 2017-02-02 05:58
Reading Challenge update - January 2017
His Bloody Project - Graeme Macrae Burnet
The Hanging of Mary Ann - Angela Badger
Amokspiel - Sebastian Fitzek
Year of Wonders - Geraldine Brooks
Nutshell: A Novel - Ian McEwan
Cold Earth: A Shetland Mystery (Shetland Island Mysteries) - Ann Cleeves

It's been a good reading month for me. I've been feeling generous so there are some five star reads in there. Classics and non-fiction fell by the wayside (no surprise there) but I did manage a book in German so I'm pleased with that.

 

So, my January reads:

 

His Bloody Project

Not really sure if I could include this one as I finished it on January 1st (feels like a bit of a cheat to me). I thought it was a true story at first and when I found out it wasn't I was impressed by the author's skill in capturing the writing style of the day.

 

The Hanging of Mary Ann

Another sad story of a woman being made example of. Simply because she was a woman.

 

Amokspiel

Not the best Fitzek I have read. It was full of clichés but entertaining.

 

Nutshell

I confess to not being Ian McEwan's biggest fan but I loved this wine-swilling, philosophizing baby.

 

Year of Wonders

The book was rich in language and culture. Loosely based on true events, it inspired a little research on my part in to the events in Eyam in 1665.

 

And the disappointment of the month award goes to ...

 

Cold Earth

The strong and silent Jimmy Perez has disappeared from Shetland and in his place we have a flat character who seems to be handing over the reins to his girlfriend. The story was formulaic and there wasn't an original character on the island. Glad I only borrowed it!

 

Just to complete the stats that's a total of 1465 pages read (excluding His Bloody Project) at an average of 47 pages a day.

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review 2016-12-23 17:18
Abbitte
Abbitte - Ian McEwan

Im Sommer des Jahres 1935 geht mit der 13jährigen Briony die Fantasie durch. Schon länger liebt sie es, Situationen für ihre schriftstellerischen Ambitionen auszuschmücken, doch wer hätte gedacht, dass die Vorstellungen eines jungen Mädchens das Leben ganzer Familien prägen kann?

Briony wächst in einer wohlhabenden Familie auf. Im Sommer sind Gäste nicht rar und in der erdrückenden Schwüle gehen die Gemüter durch. Was treibt Robbie Turner mit ihrer Schwester am Brunnen und warum haben sie in der Bibliothek so schrecklich gekeucht? Brionys Gerechtigkeitssinn entgeht keine Regung und so nimmt sie die Situation selbst in die Hand.

Ian McEwans „Abbitte“ ist sicher kein Buch für Zwischendurch. Feinfühlig geht er dem Gemüt eines jungen Mädchens auf den Grund: Briony, die sich jetzt schon als großartige Schriftstellerin sieht, allerdings ihre Cousins bespaßen muss, obwohl sie sich viel lieber ihren Interessen widmen will. Sie interpretiert gern ein bisschen zu viel in Situationen hinein, und glaubt nicht daran, dass auch sie falsch liegen kann.

Der Roman ist in drei Teile gegliedert. Im ersten Teil ist Briony die Hauptfigur, jedoch kommen auch andere Beteiligte zum Zug. Der Autor führt behutsam in die Familienverhältnisse ein, zeigt, wer wie zu wem steht und warum es sich so zugetragen hat. In diesem Abschnitt geht er meinem Geschmack nach viel zu sehr auf Details der einzelnen Figuren ein, wobei sich aber genau daraus eine unbeschreibliche Tiefe der Charaktere ergibt. 

Im zweiten Teil ist der Leser im Kriegsgeschehen in Frankreich unterwegs, wobei hier weder geschönt noch geschont wird. Zwar handelt es sich teilweise auch im eine etwas zu detaillierte Passage, allerdings zeigt Ian McEwan, wie schrecklich der Krieg ist und verweist darauf, was die Soldaten gerade noch so am Leben hält.

Im abschließenden dritten Teil findet man sich in einem britischen Krankenhaus wieder, wie man es in der Realität niemals erleben will. Den Krieg hat man hinter sich gelassen, aber wird brutal mit seinen Konsequenzen konfrontiert. Diesen Abschnitt habe ich als sehr intensiv empfunden, und er hat mich richtig aufgewühlt. Hier hat es der Autor geschafft, mich direkt in die Situation zu versetzen, die nachhaltigen Eindruck hinterlassen hat.

Der Handlung selbst stehe ich zwiegespalten gegenüber. Obwohl es eine markerschütternde Geschichte ist, hätte sie wohl schneller erzählt werden können. Gerade die Darstellung einzelner Familienmitglieder im ersten Teil, fand ich etwas mühsam zu lesen, obwohl es für das Verständnis wahrscheinlich notwendig war.

Mit dem Ende muss man wohl einfach leben lernen, denn es hat wirklich weh getan. Ich weiß nicht so recht, wer hier tatsächlich Abbitte geleistet hat, ob es der Leser, eine der Figuren oder gleich eine ganze Familie war. Ich weiß nur, dass es mich lange Zeit weiter beschäftigt hat, was meiner Ansicht nach für das Buch zu werten ist.

„Abbitte“ ist eine starke Familiengeschichte mit pikanten Details, die bis in den Krieg und den daraus resultierenden Konsequenzen reicht, zwar mit seinem ausschweifenden Stil mühsam, aber am Ende auf seine eigene Art lohnenswert ist. 

Source: zeit-fuer-neue-genres.blogspot.co.at
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text 2016-11-11 23:57
Why I read it . . .
Deadly Doses: A Writer's Guide to Poisons - Anne Klarner,Serita Stevens
Atonement - Ian McEwan

There's always a reason to read a book. Sometimes, it just takes a while for that reason to emerge. A friend loaned me several reference books for writers. Because they are all geared toward genre fiction, I wasn't entirely sure how useful they'd be to my knowledge bank.

 

But on page 65 of "Daily Doses," a book covering poisons of all sorts (no, this isn't going where you think it is), I came across an entry for Bryony, a common, climbing plant of the British Isles with poisonous roots and berries. Never heard of it before. 

 

But Bryony. That's a homophone for Briony, the lynchpin character in one of my favorite novels, Ian McEwan's "Atonement." Her lie poisons the family unit. And learning that her name is that of a poisonous plant, I now have another layer of subtext and meaning for this book I dearly love. So thanks, "Deadly Doses." 

 

(If I have one quibble with the book, though, it's that the book designer didn't do a great job. One entry runs directly into another without so much as a blank line for white space. Not especially reader-friendly, and too bad because the book is chock-full of valuable information, if this is your bag.)

 

-cg

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review 2016-10-30 06:25
Book Review: Atonement
Atonement - Ian McEwan

Book: Atonement

 

Author: Ian McEwan

 

Genre: Fiction/Family/Love/World War II/Forgiveness

 

Summary: Ian McEwan’s symphonic novel of love and war, childhood and class, guilt and forgiveness combines all the satisfaction of a superb narrative with the provocation we have come to expect from this master of English prose. On a summer day in 1935, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis witnesses the flirtation between her older sister, Cecilia, and Robbie Turner, the son of a servant. But Briony’s incomplete grasp of adult motives and her precocious imagination bring about a crime that will change all their lives, a crime whose repercussions Atonement follows through the chaos and carnage of World War II and into the close of the twentieth century. -Anchor Books, 2001.

 

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