John Wonder is an authenticator. His job is to travel the globe, witnessing attempts on world records. His one notable quality is that he is a bland man and instantly forgettable. Still he manages to amass three wives and six children. The children are named after John’s parents, Adam and Evelyn—three of each. Oceans divide these families.
He juggles these households with ease, spending a week at each house. He is a model husband and father. He cleans, cooks, changes nappies and always tells the children bedtime stories.
Something has to give, of course. He meets the most beautiful woman in the world and his carefully constructed world begins to crumble.
The Wonder Lover is an exciting novel, not because it has a thrilling and fast-paced storyline (it does not) but because the voice is fresh, the story quirky and the characters unusual. It is also extraordinarily well written.
Malcolm Knox is a brave author because his protagonist is not likeable. The reader can see that John Wonder is not a bad man–he always tries to do the right thing—but at the same time, he is not someone that the reader can like.
The first words of the book entranced me and I knew without a doubt that I was in the hands of a masterful storyteller. His prose is brilliant. In one scene, where John Wonder sees the most beautiful woman in the world for the second time, “…she strode out under her own majestic full sail, her jaw-dropping bust thrust forward, clad in tight jeans and cork wedges and a figure-hugging electric–blue cashmere sweater that evaporated moisture from the back of men’s throats…”
The narrator appears to be an amalgam of all his six children, or at least speaks for all of them. It is a delightful and unique device. Well done, Mr Knox.
The quirkiness of the story reminded me of Peter Carey’s writings, and like Carey’s books, I found myself chuckling from time to time. I am a reader who is easily bored, especially at the dreaded three-quarter stage of the story, but this did not happen in the case of The Wonder Lover. I read quickly and crazily until satisfied by the ending.
This is a fine novel indeed. Highly recommended.
Note: The Wonder Lover will be reviewed on ABC’s The Book Club in May.