Since publishing Atonement in 2001, McEwan has been better known for being Christopher Hitchens’s designated driver than for his novels. Which may help explain why McEwan’s next novel Nutshell is being pitched as a “clean break” by his publisher, featuring a protagonist with “a perspective unlike any other”—an unborn child, “with just two weeks to go in the womb,” according to The Bookseller.
This is theoretically interesting, especially coming from a novelist who once decried the “dead hand of modernism” and whose late-career work has increasingly tilted toward 19th century realism. And McEwan’s at his best when he’s stunt-y and silly, two things he’s rarely been in the last two decades. But unfortunately for McEwan, who is a grown-up person, a fetus is a terrible narrator—kids know nothing, and fetuses know less than that. So, unless the story is about hearing variously pitched mumbling and having no context in which to place said mumbling or the baby’s previous life, which it has not yet forgotten due to the trauma of birth, Nutshell will undoubtedly be a failure of realist fiction.
(h/t Eric Jett)