In January I agreed to return to the Alphabet Challenge abandoned last summer with the completion of Joyce Carol Oats, The Man Without a Shadow. So far I have read “N,” “O,” and “P.”
Letter “O” was my favorite of the three and definitely the best book I have read so far this year. It appealed to me as a literature major, but also as an original writing technique, for Ian McEwan wrote from the viewpoint of a fetus in its mother’s womb. Not just any unborn child, mind you, but Hamlet, Shakespeare’s Prince of Denmark. In tMcEwan’s novel, Hamlet’s mother, Trudy, is close to her delivery date when she and Claude, her husband’s brother and her lover, plot to kill the king and usurp his throne. Hamlet, from the womb is privy to this information and veers between faithful love and venomous hate for both his biological father and his mother. It is “the classic tale of murder and deceit,” but as you may have guessed from the modern names, it is set in modern (around 60’s) times.
There is a marvelous twist to the decision to go ahead with the murder plot that only McEwan could have invented. It is not in Shakespeare’s version (as far as I know), but it torments both Trudy and her unborn son.
The writing is the best thing about the book. Here is just a sample:
Chapter One “So here I am, upside down in a woman. Arms patiently crossed, waiting, and waiting and wondering who I’m in, what I’m in for. My eyes close nostalgically when I remember how I once drifted in my translucent body bag, floated dreamily in the bubble of my thoughts through my private ocean in slow-motion somersaults, colliding gently against the transparent bounds of my confinement, the confiding membrane that vibrated with, even as it muffled, the voices of conspirators in a vile enterprise.” MAGNIFICENT! But, what else could one expect from the author of Atonement?