Critically acclaimed Australian author and journalist Malcolm Knox’s fifteenth book is a tall tale of a serial bigamist. John Wonder has three wives located in different countries and three sets of children all called Adam and Evie. His life has become a balancing act for him to be the husband and father he is expected to be. Narrated collectively, in a fashion, by the children this is the story (and it feels very much a story throughout) of how this came to be.
John Wonder has what I would have, as a child, considered a dream job. Devoted to World records and Norris Mcwhirter’s work with Guinness in particular he is an Authenticator of record-breaking bids and his travels in this capacity have led to his philandering. For a man so obsessed with order and facts his personal life hovers on the edge of free-fall and things get worse for him when he falls in love with a woman associated with the world’s oldest person. Wonder is a purposely bland individual, not wanting to stand out from the crowd. We all know it is the quiet ones that need watching out for!
I very much enjoyed the first half of the book but did feel distanced by the narrative style. Plot-wise I was looking to it to move on more. Knox sets up well the complexity of the situation through the view point of the children but there was not the anticipated build. I was looking forward to his duplicity being revealed and consequences being faced but the revelations were not as explosive as I was hoping. I’m not sure where our sympathies are supposed to lie as readers, because the factual nature of the narrative presents us more with an understanding of the reasons for the events rather than empathy.
I would imagine that female-dominated reading groups would have a great time taking John Wonder to task but ultimately his tale is not as rich as I had hoped.
The Wonder Lover was published by Allen and Unwin in April 2016