I loved this book from the first sentence, “So here I am, upside down in a woman.” Never did I question the brilliance of an 8 ½ month old fetus as narrator, I only loved his voice, as when he said, “But I don’t whine in the face of good fortune. I knew from the start, when I unwrapped from its cloth of gold my gift of consciousness, that I could have arrived in a worse place in a far worse time.” He explains from whence his knowledge comes: his mother listens to a lot of podcasts, especially during bouts of insomnia. He listens closely to analysis and dissent. He admits that, “In the middle of a long, quiet night, I might give my mother a sharp kick. She’ll wake, become insomniac, reach for the radio. Cruel sport, I know, but we are both better informed by the morning.”
The fetus is quite a wine connoisseur, enjoying it “decanted through a healthy placenta.” He likens his first experience of it to a summer’s breeze. But he is not without caution.”I know that it will lower my intelligence. It lowers everybody’s intelligence. But oh, a joyous, blushful Pinot Noir, or a gooseberried Sauvignon, sets me turning and tumbling across my secret sea, reeling off the walls of my castle, the bouncy castle that is my home.” I couldn’t agree more. About the wine.
There were many literary references that I recognized, and I’m sure, many more that I did not. I had to look up some French and Latin phrases, not because I couldn’t figure out the meaning in context, but because I wanted to know precisely what they meant. There was one I couldn’t find a translation for, “coup de verite,” so I don’t know if McEwan made it up or if it’s just obscure.
One final example of why I love McEwan’s writing. The fetus reviles his uncle, Claud as a dull man, who is constantly whistling jingles and ringtones, and knowledgeable only about which stores to shop for clothes and the kind of cars to drive and “Whose repeated remarks are a witless, thrustless dribble, whose impoverished sentences die like motherless chicks, cheaply fading.”
Shoreditch, when his father lived there, was a nondesirable part of town. Now, it has undergone gentrification and is fashionable and hip, say s the internet. The images below illustrate its appeal.
I’m assuming that this photo was taken in the Cereal Killer Cafe that serves more than 120 different kinds of branded cereals. These twins are the owners, Alan and Gary Keery. The photo comes from Time Out London.
This mural by Ben Eine is in the tunnel archway of Rivington Street.
Are you ever really too old to be hip?
After a tense interchange with Trudy (mother of the narrator), Claud was hungry and intent on ordering Indian takeaway, but changed his mind enroute to the phone, and ordered Danish open sandwiches instead. The only Danish restaurant in London according to their website is Snaps & Rye. I learned on their website that cheese Smørrebrød are Danish open-faced sandwiches that are eaten to conclude a meal. Here is my version of one.
Blue Cheese, Pear and Hazelnut Sandwich
Makes 2 sandwiches
2 slice rugbrød (dense Danish sourdough rye bread), about 1/3-inch thick (I substituted a dark, whole grain rye)
1 tsp unsalted butter, softened slightly
½ pear, cut thinly lengthwise
¼ C Danish blue cheese, crumbled
4 tsp toasted hazelnuts, chopped
If not already trimmed, cut rye bread to a 3- by 5-inch rectangle and lightly toast. Spread butter evenly all over top side of bread. Arrange pear slices on bread so that they overlap slightly. Top with crumbled blue cheese and finish with toasted hazelnuts. Serve right away.