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Tony & Susan
Austin Wright
Read by Lorelei King and Peter Marinker

Hachette Audio / Grand Central Publishers
November 2016/ ISBN 978-1478971214
Fiction /Thriller / Audiobook - 11 hours on 9 CDs

Reviewed by Leslie C. Halpern


Originally 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married to a rich doctor who’s away at a medical convention, stays home with the children and reads her ex-husband’s unpublished manuscript like a guilty pleasure.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.

Reviewer Leslie C. Halpern is the author of four nonfiction books, including 200 Love Lessons from the Movies and four children's books, including Silly Sleepytime Poems.
Reviewed 2017