Tony and Susan by Austin Wright

Tony and Susan

This is a book originally published in 1993, but this time around it seems to have caught the attention of reviewers. The new hardback cover certainly has an eye catching simplicity about it.

The story itself is quite unusual, Susan receives a manuscript from her ex husband, which he asks her to read, stating she was always his best critic. Susan is a keen reader, and she chooses a time when her husband is away, thus reading it in three sittings.

In this way, we get to read Edward’s story for ourselves, along with Susan. It’s a thriller, which turns dark and violent. How you feel about this part of the book probably depends on which thrillers you like. I personally enjoyed the tensely written beginning more than the violence towards the end, but for others this may be different.

There are small breaks in between, which for me were the most enjoyable. During these, we get to share in Susan’s experience of reading – how she feels so far, and her anticipation of what is to come. As a keen reader myself, I found it a very accurate account.

As well as these small breaks, there are two interludes, during which we are given more of Susan’s own history – we find out more about both husbands, and the transition between them. Reading Edward’s manuscript rouses memories in Susan, as well as making her question things.

There are mixed reviews for this book, although the majority are positive, but I can see both points of view. Looking at my own response to the book, one of the main problems could be one of expectation. The book is described as being a book about fear and revenge, and when taken along with the internal thriller, I was expecting something rather different towards the end.

I therefore decided to wait a while before writing my review, and indeed my feelings about the book have improved. It’s one those books which sits quietly as you reflect on it, rather than being something instantly forgettable. The key, for me, is actually the difference between the two – a manuscript which achieves it’s aims with violence, compared to a much more subtle experience of thoughtfulness and change in Susan.

I agree with other reviewers who feel they would benefit from a second reading. Having different expectations this time should mean that I’m able to see more.

Published by Atlantic Books May 2010

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