A checked this book out because I read in Entertainment Weekly about a film adaptation coming soon called Nocturnal Animals. Tony and Susan originally published in 1993. The author died ten years later.
The EW article made the premise sound fascinating, so I couldn’t wait to read the book. The plot is that Susan Morrow unexpectedly receives a manuscript from her ex-husband, Edward Sheffield. They’ve been divorced nearly two decades and Susan is quite established in her new life with her new husband and new family. The manuscript unnerves her because Edward’s writing is noted right away as a catalyst for their divorce all those years ago.
Tony and Susan quickly becomes a book within a book, and that inner book is entitled Nocturnal Animals. Susan’s ex-husband, Edward, has written a story in which his main character, Tony, gets involved with the wrong group of guys during a highway grudge match. Unfortunately, his wife and college-aged daughter are in the car with him, and his actions have consequences for them as well.
As Susan reads about Tony’s horrific event, she is drawn in and can’t help but wonder why Edward has sent this manuscript to her after so many years of silence. Is she meant to read something into it? Should she take it at face value, or try to decipher some sort of message?
I’m torn about this book. It starts off incredibly strong. Tony’s plight with a gang of toughs made my heart race and I literally lost track of time as I read that part of the book – it flew by!
But when that initial thrill ended, Tony’s story lost a certain amount of urgency for me. Furthermore, the book shifts in tone and begins to become very much about Susan as she reads Nocturnal Animals. We learn more and more about she and Edward’s past, their marriage, and certain things that led to that marriage’s demise.
The first forty pages were absolutely riveting as Tony gambled with his family’s life while trying to stick it to a bunch of punks. But when that primary conflict reached its immediate conclusion, I felt a little cheated. I expected the vast majority of the book to be about Tony struggling to save his wife and child, but that wasn’t the case. It instead turned very much into a character study of Tony, as well as Susan. Hence, Tony and Susan, I suppose.
I still plan to see the movie, but more on the strength of the actors involved than the story itself. Tony and Susan isn’t a bad read, but it certainly does not maintain its opening appeal.