Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* Until the exciting (but, sadly, unlikely) day when McEwan (The Children Act, 2014) is awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, his numerous and ardent fans enjoy the regular appearance of his highly intelligent and compellingly provocative novels. McEwan can be counted on to make the implausible plausible and the outrageous reasonable, and his talent in that regard is put to its consummate test in his latest novel. Startling at first but quickly acceptable and even embraced, this mesmerizing tale is narrated by an unborn, male fetus. A certain amount of suspension of disbelief is required; after all, the fetus is not only capable of hearing everything being said around his mother but also comprehending adult conversation and speaking to us in a mature voice, with mature experiences and reasoning behind it. Soon we are caught up in a situation greatly consequential not only for the fetus but also for his family. The unborn baby boy is determined to interfere with how the situation plays out. But how? For all intents and purposes, he is trapped. Nevertheless, he takes matters into his tiny little hands, which brings this ingenious tour de force to its stunning conclusion. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Any new novel by this Booker-winning novelist will spark interest among literary-fiction readers. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.

Library Journal Reviews

In the 17th century, René Descartes contended that merely doubting one's own existence simultaneously proved that one existed: Cogito, ergo sum. In his newest and most provocative work to date, McEwan (Atonement; Amsterdam) stretches the philosopher's dictum to its limits with a novel narrated from inside the womb. Trudy is the surrogate of the unborn narrator, living in her estranged husband's house while carrying on an affair with his brother, Claude. Endlessly rotating around, constantly awash in wine and food, and privy to the most hushed conversations between Trudy and Claude, the narrator learns of the star-crossed lovers' plot to poison Trudy's husband. Encased in amniotic fluid, the narrator is left to squirm in silence and await his arrival into the world, a world in which his mother murdered his father. This sensation of entrapment and helplessness mirrors Trudy's conspiratorial relationship with Claude. As their plan quickly unravels, Trudy finds herself alone and ensnared in a web of lies. VERDICT McEwan joins Eric D. Goodman (Womb: A Novel in Utero) and Emma Donoghue (Room) in penning an expansive meditation on stability and identity from a confined perspective.—Joshua Finnell, Los Alamos National Lab., NM. Copyright 2016 Library Journal.

Publishers Weekly Reviews

McEwan's latest novel is short, smart, and narrated by an unborn baby. The narrator describes himself upside down in his mother's womb, arms crossed, doing slow motion somersaults, almost full-term, wondering about the future. His mother listens to the radio, audiobooks, and podcasts, so just from listening he has acquired knowledge of current events, music, literature, and history. From experience, he's formed opinions about wine and human behavior. What he's learned of the world has him using his umbilical cord as worry beads, but his greatest concern comes from overhearing his mother and her lover plotting to kill his father. The mother, Trudy, is separated from John, the father. John is overweight, suffers from psoriasis, and, perhaps most annoying for Trudy, loves to recite poetry. Trudy's lover, Claude, is a libidinous real estate developer who covets both John's wife and their highly marketable London home. Claude also happens to be John's brother. Echoes of Hamlet resound in the plans for fratricide, a ghost, and the baby's contemplation of shuffling off his mortal coil. The murder plot structures the novel as a crime caper, McEwan-style—that is, laced with linguistic legerdemain, cultural references, and insights into human ingenuity and pettiness. Packed with humor and tinged with suspense, this gem resembles a sonnet the narrator recalls hearing his father recite: brief, dense, bitter, suggestive of unrequited and unmanageable longing, surprising, and surprisingly affecting. 150,000-copy announced first printing. (Sept.)

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