From the cover: One day, comfortable in her home and her second marriage, Susan receives - entirely out of the blue - a parcel containing the manuscript of her ex-husband's first novel. He writes asking her to read the book; she was always his best critic, he says.
As Susan reads, she is drawn into the fictional life of Tony Hastings, a maths professor driving his family to their summer house in Maine. As the Hastings' ordinary, civilised lives veer disastrously, violently off course, Susan is plunged back into the past, forced to confront the darkness that inhabits her, and driven to name the fear that gnaws at her future.
First published in 1993, this forgotten novel from a little-known and now deceased US writer has received a new lease of life thanks to a UK publishing house. Wright’s novel within a novel construction wowed the literati but provided not a lot in the way of wow for me.
Unfortunately I found the main characters annoying – depressing, weak, neurotic and kowtowed by the banality of American suburban living. Susan’s life is one of resent; towards her current husband, a successful heart surgeon and adulterer; towards her ex-husband as his urge to write a book and never actually achieving it caused her to support both of them; and towards her own lack of life achievements.
The manuscript, the ‘story within the story’ is a nasty, fast-paced thriller, but even the main protagonist in this, Tony, is the sort of person you sympathise with… for a while. Then you want to thump him.
Overall, the book was a disappointing read. There were wildly varying reviews when I first checked this out; the dual story obviously polarising readers into dual camps – the five star “so glad this was re-released” set and the ‘why did I bother’ set. My foot is in the last camp. Maybe yours won’t be.
PS - We have this title in print and audio formats. I downloaded the e-Audio version and, like the theme, it was read well by dual narrators, Lorelei King and Peter Marinker.