The Wonder Lover
Allen & Unwin, $32.99 pb, 374 pp, 978176011259
Since the publication of his début novel, Summerland (2000), Malcolm Knox has established himself as one of the most ambitious and exciting fiction writers at work in Australia. A seasoned journalist, recipient of two Walkley Awards– one for his work, with Caroline Overington, in the exposé of Norma Khouri– and prolific author of diverse non-fiction works that include I Still Call Australia Home: The Qantas Story (2005), Scattered: The Inside Story of Ice in Australia (2008), and Bradman’s War (2012), Knox began his life as a novelist by paying homage to a twentieth-century master. While Summerland uses Ford Madox Ford’s The Good Soldier (1915) as its springboard, Knox proves unflinching in the subjects that consume him there and which continue to do so: namely, Australian identity and masculinity.
Knox’s novels, which include his wondrous follow-up, A Private Man (2004), as well as Jamaica (2008) and The Life (2011), are unlike any in contemporary Australian fiction. Given the close attention that all of his fiction pays to Australia, the often-unidentifiable settings of The Wonder Lover, along with the ambition that it announces in its early pages, make this latest novel a startling addition to Knox’s body of work. The art of the novel is always a high-wire act; here we find the author at work without a net.