Top critical review
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Mixed reaction : engaging yet lacking in any depth
on 31 May 2012
The Man Who Forgot His Wife by John O'Farrell is the story of Jack Vaughn, a history teacher, who wakes up on the tube with no memory of who he is, or his past, and his journey back to mental wellbeing.
It transpires that Jack's marriage has ended and that he was the one who filed for divorce but as his memories slowly return, he begins to remember all the reasons why he loved his wife to begin with.
I had a mixed response to this book, at times quite funny and also quite poignant at one point I started crying, which quite surprised me, as the calibre of the prose in general was only slightly above average. It's very contemporary with reference to the Royal Wedding as a recent past event, and has the same bloke lit kind of writing style as Tony Parsons or Nick Hornby.
The problem with the book is that 'psychogenic fugue' which is what Jack Vaughn experiences is actually quite a serious disorder which leaves it sufferers permanently disconnected and unable to bond with those they have loved. If they remember past events which is often unlikely, they still feel separate from their old self.
The jocular way the matter is treated with, though sometimes fun too often veers into the asinine and the ludicrous rendering the novel less endearing in general because it invokes the unpleasant 'As If' reaction in the reader. It has no depth, no seriousness, it's fluff, but fun fluff.
Jack Vaughn adapts too well, and resumes his old life too easily for someone in his circumstances. Where surrounding characters are concerned, I couldn't stand Linda and Gary and found it completely unbelievable that characters like Jack and Maddy would be their friends. The ending ultimately is the cheesy fare of a really poor romantic comedy. Yet somehow despite spotting glaring flaws as I read, I both laughed and cried. It was an engaging read, easy, fun, quick. 7/10