published in 1993 by the late novelist and university professor,
Austin Wright, this newly released audiobook inspired the
new Tom Ford-directed film Nocturnal Animals, starring Amy
Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal. In this 11-hour audiobook, there’s
time for plot development as well as in-depth exploration
of the increasingly horrific events that erode facades of
the title characters.
Curiously, the two central characters Tony and Susan can never
actually meet. Tony is a fictitious character – the
tragic hero in a novel titled Nocturnal Animals written by
Susan’s ex-husband, Edward. Tony is a highly civilized
and uptight academic whose strong mind (but weak will) land
him in extraordinarily disturbing circumstances. First he
endures a terrifying night-time highway incident followed
by a heinous backwoods crime, and then he suffers from an
all-consuming lust for revenge against the “animals”
who destroyed his happiness and illusion of civility.
Susan, now married to a rich doctor who’s away at a
medical convention, stays home with the children and reads
her ex-husband’s unpublished manuscript like a guilty
pleasure. With growing interest in the suspenseful thriller,
her sense of uncomfortable familiarity increases. How much
of her previous marriage to Edward is reflected in the story
of the fictitious Tony and his wife, Laura? Susan finds herself
drawn into the story, into the characters, into the similarities,
and perhaps most disturbing, into the mind of her former husband
as he created this spellbinding tale of cruelty and revenge
that may have some unsettling connection to her.
Wright’s writing is masterful – a slow tease that
moves back and forth between Susan’s reactions now,
reflections on her past, and the Nocturnal Animals story within
the story. The language is eloquent, yet straightforward.
As written, the “voices” of the characters are
quite distinct, indicating their levels of education, occupations,
origins, and states of mind.
Likewise, skillful voice talents Lorelei King, who reads the
sections on Susan, and Peter Marinker, who reads the sections
from the book manuscript, set the characters apart for the
listener. Using male and female voices to differentiate the
two stories means there’s no confusion about which story
is being told. Marinker successfully handles the extremely
challenging job of reading various voices throughout the Nocturnal
Animals story and managing to make them all sound different.
Tony & Susan makes for compelling multi-layered
reading. As awful as the crime within the manuscript may be,
we – like Susan – must know every detail so we
can fully embrace Tony’s metamorphosis. But knowing
his story isn’t enough, as the additional stories of
Susan and Edward, Susan and her current husband, and Susan’s
obsession with Tony also demand explanation in this intertwining
tale of regret for roads taken.