Malcolm Knox is an award-winning journalist and author who has proven that he is adept at writing both fiction and non-fiction pieces. His fifth novel, The Wonder Lover is an adult fable and cautionary tale about secrets and love. It is ultimately a bold book that hits some high notes as well as some flat ones.
The story stars an unlikely protagonist named John Wonder. This is a man who is meticulous and pedantic in his work as an authenticator and information verifier at the Guinness Book of World Records. Yet his personal life is a bizarre love triangle and mess that is based on lies and betrayal.
The bland and sexless Wonder is a bigamist with three different wives and six children (three lots of two named Adam and Stevie). He is a difficult man to like and engage with. And he is very hard to read and it’s even more difficult to get inside his head.
Here, Knox is very ambitious as he writes a story from Wonder’s children’s perspective. It’s a first person, plural voice that is all-seeing, non-judgemental and all-knowing. John Wonder’s women are very interesting. His three wives come to be known as his “true love”, “soul mate” and “redeemer”. There is also a young woman named Cicada who makes Wonder come undone after he falls in love with her.
It’s a shame that Wonder is such a bland, washed-out and pale character. It’s like all of the scaffolding in this book has been devoted to his women. It means that what was a good premise occasionally fails because the prose can be dry at times (to reflect the central character) and at other moments contain some excellent and insightful observations about humans and their folly.
The Wonder Lover is a strange tale that does have some similarities to Knox’s other work in that it explores the inner life of a man. It’s a unique and energetic story with a fresh voice and Knox really does toy with the idea of fiction and conventional storytelling here. But this book does make you wonder exactly who the victim is and at some points question why the reader should even care. It’s sad because the plot itself is completely original and vibrant, meaning the novel could be so much more than what it currently is.
***Please note: a free copy of this book was given to the writer through a The Reading Room giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: https://www.thereadingroom.com/book/wonder-lover/9184241