I picked up The Wonder Lover by Malcolm Knox a few weeks ago but couldn’t focus (a mid-semester exam was on my horizon). Jenny suggested I set it aside until I could give it my full attention. Which I did. In the interim, she mentioned the book on her blog and compared Knox’s writing to John Irving. STOP EVERYTHING. Irving is my absolute favourite and best modern author. Stuff the study of population genetics, I thought, as I ripped into The Wonder Lover.
Read the blurb but all you really need to know is this: “What’s the worst thing that can happen to a man with three secret families? He falls in love.”
It shouldn’t have been a Knox/ Irving comparison exercise (and Jenny will probably be horrified that I turned it into that) but it was. Just a little, but it was. Although Knox and Irving share the same precisely constructed characters and the same fantastical plot inclusions, I couldn’t fully commit to Knox because he was telling me, rather than showing me (or letting his intelligent reader infer). Basically what Zadie Smith said here. That.
And the problem with telling rather than showing is that the writing then lacks a certain compactness. Some people will stop reading now, given that I’ve said Knox’s 370 page book lacks ‘compactness’, in comparison to Irving’s 800 page tomes. Hush.
I won’t say much more other than the fact that while I really loved the stories of each of the women in The Wonder Lover, the ending sorely lacked originality.
3/5 One of those books that you’ll probably read regardless of reviews, simply because the premise is intriguing.