Susan is married to Arnold, but she used to be married to Edward. Edward had dreams of becoming a writer. One day, Susan unexpectedly receives a package from her first husband containing the manuscript of a novel he has written entitled `Nocturnal Animals'. As she reads the novel, she begins to take stock of her life, notably her life with Edward and the failure of that marriage, and her life with Arnold and her fears that he is embarking on an affair with a colleague.
Tony is the lead character in the novel Edward has written. As Susan reads the novel, we read along with her: `Tony and Susan' is a story within a story.
Austin Wright's novel, originally published in 1993 and reissued in 2010 to critical acclaim in the UK, successfully welds its thriller component, `Nocturnal Animals', with Susan's reaction to it to form an impressive and unusual work.
`Nocturnal Animals' is an engaging thriller in its own right. Tony Hastings, a mathematics professor, is driving late at night with his wife and daughter on their way to their holiday home. Their car is forced off the road by some thugs who abduct the female passengers.
Susan's reading elicits various responses as she attempts to categorize the story and second guess the plot based on her knowledge of her ex-husband. But more than that, `Tony and Susan' puts the concept of a novel as a piece of media to the fore. Every reader's interpretation of fictional writing is different. The story that plays out in one's mind, the characters and the setting are visualized uniquely by each reader. Susan's dissection of `Nocturnal Animals' and the way she relates it to her own life, by way of the author's relationship with her and her reactions to the lead character's actions, give a fascinating insight into the way we relate to fiction.
My only gripes, and these are quite minor given how enjoyable this novel is, are that both strands begin to pall a little towards the end of the book. I felt that there could have been a little more editing here and there. However, as a whole, this is a superbly written novel and is highly recommended.