The kid is not alright

Hooray! An Ian McEwan novel that didn’t make me cry. Although, I’ve now realised that’s not necessarily a good thing.

Yes, it’s well written, the prose is engaging, etc, but at no point was I emotionally invested in this unborn baby whose mother is killing his father with her lover’s help. Hamlet is powerless in this situation as he can’t change the past, but out baby is powerless as he’s not been born. I tried to suspend disbelief and go with the literary flow of a foetus that can record its thoughts, knows not just language, but can visualise colours and shapes without reference, such as he hears his mother’s lover refer to her wearing of cut-off shorts, but how does the baby know what cut-offs are? I doubt my nan did and she was alive for over 90 years. But it’s when the unborn child makes wine-snob comments like ‘I would have gone for a Sancerre, preferably from Chavignol’ when his mum has a drink, I dislike as well as doubt. The alcohol may reach the baby, but after travelling through the mother’s digestive system the vintage and area of origin is going to escape the foetal palate. Plus, we know kids’ taste buds prefer Haribo, and later on, pear cider drank al-bus-shelter-fresco.

I have enjoyed the idea of a conscious newborn before, and loved Kate Atkinson’s ‘Behind the Scenes at the Museum’ (although Ruby isn’t an unborn baby for long, it must be hard to keep it going) as well as how Tristram Shandy knows (too much) about his own conception, and how Stewie Griffen was actively plotting to escape his ‘Cursed ovarian Bastille’.


However, this was a good murder novel, and a good idea, but I just didn’t like the baby enough to get into it. I’m shallow, and like books better when the characters are people I’d want to know in real life. I would avoid all birthday parties this kid attended (which carries little weight as I avoid all kids’ birthday parties regardless, as they are the 10th circle of hell).

And to end, the best (and only one I know of ) in utero music video.