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A classic tale of murder and deceit from one of the world’s master storytellers – ‘a masterpiece’ The Times

The Sunday Times Number One Bestseller

Trudy has betrayed her husband, John. She's still in the marital home – a dilapidated, priceless London townhouse – but not with John. 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.

Reviews

An astonishing act of literary ventriloquism unlike any in recent literature. A bravura performance, it is the finest recent work from a true master… Told from a perspective unlike any other, Nutshell is a shocking tale of murder and treachery from one of the world’s master storytellers.

Daily Telegraph

A creative gamble that pays off brilliantly…Witty and gently tragic, this short, bewitching novel is an ode to humanity’s beauty, selfishness and inextinguishable longing.

Hephzibah Anderson, Mail on Sunday

Ian McEwan’s embryonic spin on Hamlet is a virtuoso feat of wordplay … Virtuoso entertainment.

Tim Adams, Observer

While the literary device of an unborn baby narrating a novel from the womb is hardly original… Ian McEwan employs it with aplomb... Here everything is tightly controlled and the tension ratchets up as our all-knowing unborn watches helplessly from his watery sack while the dastardly plan progresses through a series of nail-biting moments… The ending is beautifully contrived… The book is elegantly written with plenty of pungent, topical observations upon the world.

John Harding, Daily Mail

At once playful and deadly serious, delightful and frustrating it is one of McEwan’s hardest to categorise works, and all the more interesting for it.

Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, The Times

Nutshell is an orb, a Venetian glass paperweight, of a book; a place where, be warned , it puts you in the quoting mood…it is a consciously late, deliberately elegiac , masterpiece, a calling together of everything McEwan has learned and knows about his art.

Kate Clanchy, Guardian

A very alternative Hamlet… the tension ratchets up as our all-knowing unborn watches helplessly from his watery sack while the dastardly plan progresses through a series of nail-biting moments… The book is elegantly written with plenty of pungent, topical observations upon the world its narrator will soon be emerging into.

Daily Mail, John Harding

One of the most hilariously unlikely narrators in contemporary fiction.

Claire Lowdon, Sunday Times

A fast, arch beach read… A psychological thriller with a bad marriage and murder at its centre… McEwan has thrown in Gone Girl intrigue with The Girl on the Train suspense and given us his take on how toxic a marriage can get when spliced with a Shakespearean cast. Who knew McEwan could mix high and low literary genres to create such a bizarrely readable mash-up?

Arifa Akbar, Independent

The book’s finest exploration is of poetry. The author offers up everything he knows about its intensity, and why he loves it so. It is clear Mr McEwan has had enormous fun writing Nutshell; now it is the reader’s turn to be entertained too. Dark as it is, this novel is a thing of joy.

The Economist

McEwan’s latest novel features all his hallmarks: elegant plotting, suspense, good characterisation and a chilling awareness of just how unpleasant people can be… Witty and thoughtful, this short, engaging novel punches well above its weight.

Vanessa Berridge, Daily Express

As we read this tight little novel — like a foetus in the womb — grows into something much grander and weightier than itself.

Daniel Swift, Spectator

McEwan has always been an artist in the Alfred Hitchcock vein in that what’s most interesting and appealing about his work tends to come from his extreme technical mastery of his medium.

Christopher Taylor, Financial Times

[A] crisp, cool tale [which] contains, in a nutshell, the kernel of Hamlet… The real wonder is that this novel’s deft, light prose and belting pulse-rate can transport all this freight. Every sentence has its ghost, every word its pun. The bard’s wisdom becomes the novelist’s wit… Nutshell is a high-risk, high-wire act, brilliantly executed.

Frances Wilson, Times Literary Supplement

McEwan carries it off with aplomb… [Nutshell] brims with life. In a nutshell, shall we say, it’s a corker.

Sebastian Shakespeare, Tatler

[It] is like nothing we’ve read before. Nutshell is a gripping domestic drama.

Tracy Chevalier, Good Housekeeping

[A] surprising and surprisingly funny novel.

Sunday Times

His most intriguing book since [On Chesil Beach].

John Boyne, Irish Times

[Nutshell] in parts is the best of his oeuvre…since Enduring Love… There is a visceral edge and an eldritch stickiness to some of the prose.

Stuart Kelly, Scotland on Sunday

McEwan is the nearest thing we have to a “state of (much of) the nation” novelist. He does commentary with a crisp verve.

Andrew Marr, New Statesman

Nutshell was…a pleasure to read… [It’s] very funny.

Keith Miller, Literary Review

McEwan, whose prose is always exquisite, is best known for Amsterdam, Atonement and Saturday. His Nutshell is a stunt, but a gorgeous one, studded with Joycean reflections on fathers, the wisdom of pop songs and reviews of placenta-filtered fine wine.

Mail Online

Perhaps you’ve got to read it to believe it? That’s certainly what I urge. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Lucy Scholes, National

Nutshell features the novelist at his best, combining the unsettling morbidity of his early works with the wit and depth of his later publications… It is comforting to know too that McEwan, one of the great writers of his generation, part of the defining clique of his time, continues to carve his talents into jewels 40 years on.

Simon Leser, Culture Trip

[McEwan] spins this gripping yarn in his usual sublime prose, sprinkled with the blackest of comic relief… The only criticism one could level at this slender beauty is that it’s over all too soon.

UK Press Syndication

This, McEwan’s fourteenth novel, proves once again that he is a writer finely attuned to how the heart beats. He knows how to make his reader feel entertained, happy, and sad, all within twenty pages – an expert in the craft of the sad smile, so to speak… Be assured – you don’t have to be a fan of the play to read this novel; it is a pleasure in its own right.

Cornelius Dieckmann, Varsity

It has a great concept and a brilliant opening… I love the way the wisecracking narrator…picks up information about the world… It shows what can be done with the form, that there are still new ways to experiment.

Paul Morley, Metro

Possibly the most unusual crime book of the year. A witty and suspenseful story told from inside a mother's womb.

Lovereading

It's an intriguing set-up, and one that allows McEwan to do what he's good at. The crime is deftly charted, expertly paced. Much of the writing is lean and queasily vivid.

Orlando Bloom, Irish Independent

McEwan is even more brilliant when turning his pen to wry humour and satire… An intelligent social satire.

Juanita Coulson, Lady

A classic tale of murder and deceit.

Choice Magazine

[It’s] incredibly brave and only one of our greatest authors could pull it off. He does, with aplomb. The sheer command of language and confidence with prose is a tutorial for us lesser authors.

Jeffrey Archer, Daily Mail

This dark, clever tale is among the best of McEwan’s newer novels.

Laura Powell, Sunday Telegraph, Book of the Year

This dark, clever tale is among the best of McEwan’s newer novels.

Laura Powell, Sunday Telegraph, Book of the Year

[Nutshell is] hilarious and compelling… [A] ripping, gripping yarn – narrative velcro.

Craig Raine, Spectator, Book of the Year

McEwan is on top form… Social satire that wears its learning lightly

Lady, Book of the Year

[A] brilliant novel… A tour de force in language and literary intrigue.

Brad Davies, i, Book of the Year

A book pulsing with hilarious and brainy brio… He simultaneously spoofs crime fiction and finds a novel mouthpiece for a mordantly entertaining and exhilaratingly intelligent commentary on the modern world.

Peter Kemp, Sunday Times, Book of the Year

A book pulsing with hilarious and brainy brio… He simultaneously spoofs crime fiction and finds a novel mouthpiece for a mordantly entertaining and exhilaratingly intelligent commentary on the modern world.

Peter Kemp, Sunday Times, Book of the Year

A comic tale… It is a masterpiece.

Fiona Wilson, The Times, Book of the Year

[A] wonderful new novel.

Catherine Nixey, The Times

By turns, funny, shocking and compelling. But the writing is so clever and beautiful. I could read it again and again.

Nick Clegg, Mail on Sunday

The voice of its narrator, a foetus, is splendidly sardonic.

Quentin Letts, Daily Mail, Book of the Year

The voice of its narrator, a foetus, is splendidly sardonic.

Quentin Letts, Daily Mail, Book of the Year

Not only does he pull it off, he does so triumphantly, in the cleverest book I’ve read this year. It’s smart, dark and at times very funny.

Jonathan Pugh, Daily Mail, Book of the Year

A saucy, claustrophobic and darkly funny story which is all rather peculiar. Compulsive reading.

Henry Deedes, Daily Mail, Book of the Year

I devoured Ian McEwan’s latest very funny spin on Hamlet.

Sarah Crossan, Irish Times, Book of the Year

An ingenious rewrite of Hamlet as a murder story in which a foetus is detective and possible victim.

Mark Lawson, Guardian, Book of the Year

This is McEwan at his most playfully provocative.

Irish Independent, Book of the Year

A clever conceit, elegantly wrought, economically constructed.

Tablet, Book of the Year

A bewitching ode to humanity’s beauty, longing and selfishness.

Irish Mail on Sunday, Book of the Year

A gripping piece of fiction.

Accounting Web UK, Book of the Year

I was hooked from the first page.

David Murphy, Irish Independent, Book of the Year

A enthralling read from one of the world’s master storytellers.

Helen Brown, Absolutely London

McEwan delights with lyrical prose that is fittingly poetic.

Ed Butterfield, The Boar

[A] work which both fascinates and disturbs through its unique perspective on a malicious death… Every sentence is a joy to behold, a gift to the reader of delicately considered prose, and thoughtful observations… Alongside its edgy and entertaining narration, and perhaps in part because of it, the novel manages to challenge all preconceptions of the crime genre, upending the whodunit into an extraordinary will-they-do-it… By nature, Nutshell is a novel which perplexes, entertains, and moves the reader in equal turn, all with McEwan’s startling attention to detail, and luxuriant prose style. Read it for its peculiar narrator, read it for the rapidly-changing and intense emotions, or read it just for the thrill of chase as the killing comes to fruition; whatever intrigues you about this novel, just make sure that you do read it – and feel the thrill for yourself.

Eli Holden, Oxford Student

Brilliantly realised… Any book so bound up in a conceit and in its own verbal fireworks at times runs the risk of being a bit clever-clever. But on the whole we accept in a suspension of disbelief the foetus’s pompous mastery of language and imagery and abandon ourselves to the sheer eloquent pleasure of this hilarious romp.

Liza Cox, Totally Dublin

Short, odd but pleasurable… Great fun, and very well written.

i

Rich in Shakespearean allusion, this is McEwan on dazzling form.

Mail on Sunday

Told from a perspective unlike any other, Nutshell is a classic tale of murder and deceit from one of the world’s master storytellers.

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Formats & editions

  • Paperback

    9781784705114

    May 29, 2017

    Vintage

    224 pages

    RRP $19.99

    Online retailers

    • Abbey's Bookshop
    • Angus & Robertson Bookworld
    • Booktopia
    • Boomerang Books
    • Collins Booksellers
    • Dymocks
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    Or

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • Hardback

    9781911214335

    August 29, 2016

    Jonathan Cape

    208 pages

    RRP $32.99

    Online retailers

    • Abbey's Bookshop
    • Angus & Robertson Bookworld
    • Booktopia
    • Boomerang Books
    • Collins Booksellers
    • Dymocks
    • Books Kinokuniya
    • The Nile
    • QBD
    • Readings
    • Robinsons Bookshop
    Or

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • EBook

    9781473547131

    September 1, 2016

    Vintage Digital

    208 pages

    Online retailers

    • iBooks
    • Amazon Kindle
    • Booktopia
    • eBooks
    • Google Play
    • Kobo
    Or

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

Book List
A Rough Guide: Ian McEwan

Explore the affecting, inimitable, unforgettable stories of this remarkable author.

Article
Nutshell Reading Notes

For a book club unlike any other: Nutshell by Ian McEwan

Also by Ian McEwan

On Chesil Beach (Vintage Summer)
The Children Act
Sweet Tooth
First Love, Last Rites
Solar
For You
On Chesil Beach
Saturday
Rose Blanche
Atonement
Amsterdam
Black Dogs
The Innocent
Enduring Love
The Child In Time
In Between the Sheets
The Comfort Of Strangers
The Cement Garden
The Daydreamer

Recommendations

The Handmaid's Tale
To Kill A Mockingbird
Best Laid Plans
Echo Burning
A Gentleman in Moscow
Fool Me Once
Private Delhi
The Girl on the Train
The Heart's Invisible Furies
Voyager
Swing Time
The Narrow Road to the Deep North
The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night-time
The Girls
The Mistress
The Bone Collection
Cold Blood
Fifty Shades Darker
Colombiano
The Trip of a Lifetime