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Tony & SusanWhat’s it all about?

At its simplest Tony & Susan by the late American author Austin Wright is a book about the experience of reading. First published in 1993, it’s been out of print for a while (and think it might still be in the US), possibly because it isn’t a book that can be easily categorised, and is of interest for that reason alone. I was going to say that it “tells the story of” but it doesn’t really; we are with Susan as she reads the novel written and sent to her by her ex-husband Edward, while her current husband Adrian is away at a conference. We learn about Susan’s relationships as she ponders her past in between reading the novel, in which Tony is the central character.

Why did I want to read it?

I bought this as an ebook this time last year but can’t remember where I heard about it or who may have recommended it to me. It reappeared on my radar following a mention on Twitter by James Smythe (an author I really rate and have reviewed here more than once) as a book that really unsettled him, and as I had just been through a series of serial killer based police procedurals I was looking for something different and this was it.

What did I think about it?

This is a novel that has clearly resonated with a number of distinguished people who have loved it and praised it to the skies. You are probably expecting a “but” now, however I’m not going to disagree with them necessarily. It is an unsettling book in that I’m not sure exactly what it is, if I can put it that way. Much depends I think on your reaction to the book within the book, the story of Tony and the dreadful events that befall him (the internal novel is called Nocturnal Animals) and I suspect that’s where my problem lies because I really didn’t get on with NA at all; I’m not sure whether it was meant to be a thriller or a revenge tragedy but I got so cross with Tony that I didn’t really care what happened. I was much more invested in Susan, her fears and memories and hopes all triggered by the experience of reading NA. I liked her, I think I understood her and I was always impatient to get back to what she was thinking. I don’t know if that’s a gender thing (I’d like to think it’s not as simple as that given how much blood and guts revenge stuff I actually read) and in many ways Tony and Susan are equally passive, but I found her passivity easier to swallow, though of course I’ve never been through anything remotely as awful as Tony so have no idea about how I might act, and am therefore probably being totally unfair. I just wanted to shake him. A lot.

So a book that I admired rather than enjoyed, though Susan’s voice has stuck with me longer than I expected.

Bride of the Book God

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Scottish, in my fifties, love books but not always able to find the time to read them as much as I would like. I’m based in London and happily married to the Book God.

I also blog at Bride of the Screen God (all about movies and TV) and The Dowager Bride, if you are interested in ramblings about stuff of little consequence

If you would like to get in touch you can contact me at brideofthebookgod (at) btinternet (dot) com.

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May 2015