The weekend's reviews of Ian McEwan's latest novel Nutshell (Jonathan Cape), out on Thursday (1st September), have applauded the boldness of its central conceit, which sees a foetus akin to a modern-day Hamlet narrate the story of his father's murder from within the womb.
The embryo is a witness as mother Trudy plots with her lover, brother-in-law Claude, to kill his poet father.
The Telegraph voted the book "a jeu d'esprit" and "consistently hilarious", while the Times called the Hamlet foetus a "brilliantly brazen decision", saying it was "a stroke of genius to play 'Hamlet' for laughs" and that Nutshell showed McEwan "a pentathlete at the top of his game, doing several very different things equally well."
For the Guardian, Kate Clanchy noted that "a talking foetus could be an unconvincing or at least tiresomely limited narrator" but judged the novel "a consciously late, deliberately elegiac masterpiece, a calling together of everything McEwan has learned and knows about his art."
For the same newspaper, Tim Adams voted Nutshell "a virtuoso feat of wordplay", noting that"McEwan has what seems like enormous fun constructing a voice that is both alive with wild and whirling wordplay and capable of all sorts of antic dispositions".
Interviewed in the Wall Street Journal, the author noted that after being "very happily" engaged in realism for the past 20 years, "not since my early stories have I so completely abandoned the laws of physics and biology", saying it was "a liberation to just remain at my desk and freely fantasise." He also revealed he was "constantly" thinking about writing a memoir.
Meanwhile Deadline has reported that Emma Thompson is in talks to star in the film adaptation of McEwan's previous novel The Children Act.