Susan is reading a novel (Nocturnal Animals) about a man named Tony, written by her ex, Edward. The vast majority of the book comprises Nocturnal Animals .... and for me, here's the problem - it's not in fact a very good book. It has an explosive opening, where a 'good' family make a chance night-time encounter on a deserted highway with a bunch of bad guys who try to run them off the road. Immediately we are thrown into a violent thriller where the readers attention is maintained by the danger in which the characters are placed. What Tony and Susan adds to this is that in parallel with the traditional thriller featuring Tony, we have a more subtle thriller involving Susan as she reads the book. Edward is coming to visit and Susan works herself into a lather wondering if the violence in the book is a message to her, whose marriage to Edward ended after she was unfaithful to him.
My hopes were raised by the cover quotation from no lesser writer than Saul Bellow who describes Tony and Susan as being "marvellously written". In parts it is but equally, in parts we get "When that young Susan on Edward's bed saw Arnold Morrow's alarming penis suddenly come into view with swollen purpose, she heard a gong in her head. She heard another soon after, when she decided to let it in" which to my mind puts it in the running for that bad sex writing award that gets dished out every year.
Ultimately, it's not a bad book. Certainly interesting in parts, particularly in its deeper considerations of how we read books and, in part what books mean to their writers. But does it warrant the praise heaped on it by the publishers who have republished it after the initial failure of the book to make any headway describing it as "the most astounding lost masterpiece of American fiction since Revolutionary Road"? That's a big claim, and one that it doesn't, for me, deliver on.