Title: The Wonder Lover
Author: Malcolm Knox
Genre: Fiction (Adult)
Release date: May 1, 2015
John Wonder is an Authenticator of facts. He officially began his career straight out of school, when he was offered a position at The Guinness Book of Records. Decades of dealing in facts has meant that he applies much the same factual rationale to all other aspects of his life. His life is moving along as smoothly as can be expected until one day, out of the blue, he sees The Most Beautiful Woman in the World. And he falls in love. Which would be perfectly fine if her weren’t already married. To three women. Who are situated in different countries to one another and have no idea of the existence of each other. And he has two children with each of those women – a total of three boys and three girls; three Adam’s and three Evie’s.
I don’t think I need to spell out that this situation causes lots of problems for John Wonder – so I won’t go into detail. I will say the situation lends itself to some laughs here and there, as well as some expected drama. However despite his actions, which could be viewed as selfish, and that he was committing what would be a crime in many societies, I found it difficult to dislike John Wonder, and I actually found myself sympathising with him in some respects (although as the novel headed towards it’s climax, I did begin to think him quite cowardly).
The cover of the book (which is ridiculously awesome, in my opinion) suggests that the main man is suave and seductive – the Don Draper of the fact-checking world. But John Wonder is no Don Draper. His abilities in attracting women have nothing to do with his looks and ability to charm. It is because he is non-threatening, nondescript, and all but invisible. Which I found to be an incredibly interesting contrast to women in the story, each of whom seemed to be very definite in their characterisation, almost stereotypical in their representation, and all completely different to one another. In a way I saw this as a commentary – or perhaps a reflection – on how the physicalness of a woman is much more apparent in society and in the professional arena, while it is less so for a man. I’m thinking specifically of female politicians and how the way they dress is often scrutinised. Then we have the red carpet mani-cams and focus on designer dresses rather than the work of the actresses. I could go on, but I won’t. I don’t know whether this was Knox’s intention, but that’s what I thought of.
I’m sure this book will make all readers think about something different. For me it was humanity’s need to know everything it possibly can, to measure knowledge, and to label it as either true or false in relation to other knowledge. So it was interesting that the novel’s protagonist – who seemingly builds his life around true and false, right and wrong – should be the one who blurs those binary boundaries. It got me thinking about why it is that certain things are, in some societies, considered right or wrong. Why is that in most of Western society, polygamy is considered wrong? John Wonder has three families all kept secret from one another – but he cares for them all equally, loves them, and does right by them as much as he possibly can. Does this lifestyle choice make him a bad person, despite him not being inherently bad?
All of this is brought together in a somewhat clinical narrative by the children of John Wonder, which took me some time to settle in to as it was quite different from anything I’d read before. But once I did I found it highly engaging and not as biased as what I would have expected. It might be one of the most honest narratives I’ve read in a while – the children realising they’ve been lied to, but not making excuses for the liar.
I know it’s only April, but this has got to be the best book I’ve read this year (and I’ve read lots of other amazing books already). I’ve not read anything by Malcolm Knox before, aside from some articles in one of my uni classes (and I’m so proud to say he’s a fellow Aussie!), but from this one book I can see that he has a keen sense for what makes people tick. This simultaneously makes for intriguing reading, but also a hope that I never meet him because I just know he’d take one look at me and read me like a book.