My book group’s read for January was Tony & Susan, originally published in 1993, and recently republished as Nocturnal Animals to coincide with the release of the Jake Gyllenhaal / Amy Adams film in 2016.
Many years after their divorce, Susan Morrow receives a strange gift from her ex-husband. A manuscript that tells the story of a terrible crime: an ambush on the highway, a secluded cabin in the woods; a thrilling chiller of death and corruption.
How could such a harrowing story be told by the man she once loved?
And why, after so long, has he sent her such a disturbing and personal message…?
I absolutely love a story within a story, and Tony & Susan was no exception. And I have to say that the Nocturnal Animals story, written by Susan’s ex-husband, was riveting! It features a man called Tony Hastings who is a rather mild-mannered maths professor. Tony and his family get into trouble late one night whilst driving to Maine, and the manuscript details Tony’s plight, and the aftermath. It’s a complex story, and I won’t spoil it, but I was completely invested in the tale, perhaps more so than usual, as I found that Susan’s commentary, which is shared between chapters of the manuscript, enhances the story. I was a little surprised at how the story ended, however – whilst not a bad ending, it gets a little… strange.
Susan reads the manuscript in three sittings, with brief interludes in between. These give the reader more of an insight into Susan’s character, as well as her relationship with Edward, and how she met her second (and current) husband, Arnold. I didn’t really take to Susan as a character – she comes across as being quite meek, and unwilling to rock the boat, even when she’s not entirely happy about something – Arnold’s affair(s), for example. She also seems to think quite a lot of herself, which I do find quite off-putting. This didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the novel in any way, however, and I found that this gave me a more objective outlook on both the overarching novel as well as the manuscript that Susan reads.
Once I finished Tony & Susan, I did find that I had an outstanding question – why did Edward send Susan the manuscript some 25 years after their divorce? I have a couple of theories on this, but they are just that – theories. At a simplistic level, I think that Tony was perhaps giving Susan a big **** you – having her so thoroughly engaged by this story that he has written, when she had little faith in his ability while they were together, although she did work to support him during that period. I don’t know if I’m looking for a bigger meaning that simply isn’t there, but this does feel a little too straightforward – I’d love to know your thoughts if you’ve read this.
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐