Nocturnal Animals, Austin Wright

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Love. Death. Retribution.

Susan Morrow and Edward Sheffield divorced fifteen years ago. Now a house-wife and mother in Chicago, married to Doctor Arnold Morrow, she one day receives a letter and a manuscript from her ex-husband, asking would she like to read his first book?

A compulsive worrier, Susan assumes that Edward’s getting back in touch means that there will be some hidden meaning in his story: “a new twist in their dead romance”. She’s surprised, intrigued and hesitant, but finally sits down to read the manuscript over a three day period.

The manuscript, Nocturnal Animals, is a thriller which follows Tony Hastings’ journey after a highway ambush, and the kidnapping of his wife and daughter.

Susan reads, as we all do, with the hope of taking herself out of and away from her own reality, so she’s unpleasantly surprised to find more of herself in this novel than she would have liked.

 

I really enjoyed most of this book and appreciated Wright’s consideration of the interconnection between real and invented worlds, and the relationship between the reader and the writer.

However, I wouldn’t call the book a thriller.

It didn’t have the expected or anticipated twist that a thriller needs. Even in the manuscript, I was waiting for something to happen. Some big twist that makes you throw your hands to your mouth and shout “OH!” in shock and realisation.

But, I don’t think that this is the author’s fault.

My expectations were founded on the way the book has been recently advertised. For me, it’s definitely more literary fiction, focused on Susan’s compulsion to read and her fear of reading, and this is the part that, in my opinion, is done really well.

The conceit at the heart of this book is intellectual and stimulating: reading the book alongside Susan, even if she is neurotic and passive, means that our reactions are her reactions, our thoughts are her thoughts. We are the reader.

It’s also a book about revenge. The manuscript itself seems enveloped in it, as well as the strange relationship between Edward and Susan. However, I think that their relationship was left unexplored and the focus on the eventually pretty average novel that Edward wrote, meant that their complicated past (and indeed complicated present) was unfortunately left behind, to the detriment of this novel.

Overall, although I felt slightly disappointed when I had finished this book (because it was missing the cheap thrill I expected), I really enjoyed reading it. It’s given me a lot to think about, which can only be a good thing, in my opinion.

 

Have you read this? Let me know what you thought in the comments below!

Bookish New Year Resolutions, and other ramblings

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I don’t do New Year resolutions for the same reason as most other people – I can’t keep them. They’re hard, and usually unrealistic, and I’m a bit crap at keeping promises to myself.

But this year I’ve kind of unintentionally set myself one with the help of goodreads. I’m doing the Reading Challenge, which isn’t at all daunting.

It’s just simply: How many books do you want to read this year? Okay, do it.

I’ve set myself 20. I’m not sure if that’s too many or too little, I’ve never really logged what I’ve read. I’d be really interested actually in seeing how many books I’ve read over my 22 years, so it’ll be a cool way to see how ridiculous I am, and also a good exercise in thinking about what I’ve read, and rating what I have and haven’t liked. Expect plenty of blog reviews, naturally.

I’m on my 4th book of the year so far. I’ve read Margaret Atwood’s new book The Heart Goes Last, David Mitchell’s Slade House and Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You. I’m now a couple of chapters into After You, the sequel. So I’d say that’s a pretty good and varied start!

I’ve also started listening to some GREAT fiction podcasts: The Bright Sessions and Alice isn’t Dead. These are brilliant because when I’m tired on the morning commute and my eyes still aren’t 100% awake, I can just plug in and zone out. It’s also introducing me to new genres of fiction that I wouldn’t have necessarily picked up in book form.

I’ve joined a book club which I’m very excited about, and one of my coolest Christmas gifts this year was being signed up to a ‘Tea and Vintage Book Club’ with Bookishly!

Some of the books on my ‘to read list’ this year so far are:

  • Go Set a Watchman, Harper Lee
  • When Breath Becomes Air, Paul Kalanithi
  • Nocturnal Animals, Austin Wright
  • The Bone Clocks, David Mitchell
  • The Bear and the Nightingale, Katherine Arden

Have you set any bookish resolutions? And what are you planning on reading this year? Know any good podcasts? Let me know in the comments, I’d love some recommendations!

And you can follow me on goodreads here if things like that tickle your fancy.