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My Favourite Wife by Tony Parsons

Posted on | March 30, 2008 | No Comments

Book cover

Having read and enjoyed “Man and Boy” and “One for my baby”, I was looking forward to reading this latest novel from Tony Parsons. Alas it was a major disappointment. Having just finished it, I am left with a sense of frustration and annoyance.

The main character Bill, a hotshot lawyer begins the novel moving from London to Shanghai with his wife Becca and daughter Holly, on the promise that when he puts his time in in China, he’ll be made partner in his law firm and therefore a very wealthy man.

Shanghai is described in terms of opportunity, exploitation, poverty and wealth. Bill and his family move into an apartment block that is also home to many other expats and also the “second wives” or mistresses of wealthy Chinese businessmen.

The story unfolds with Becca being unhappy in Shanghai, her father falling ill and her and Holly returning to London. JinJin, one of the second wives, has already caught Bill’s attention and following Becca’s departure they begin their affair. Things come to a head when Becca and Holly return and inevitably the affair is made public.

Its all a bit one dimensional really. JinJin’s personality is mainly described in childlike terms which I found a bit aggravating. I didn’t really identify with any of the main characters, none of them were very sympathetic. The minor characters such as Bill’s father were more interesting to be honest. 

The plot meandered and it felt like a chore to get to the end. The cultural, social and political differences between Shanghai and London were explored to a certain degree and to an extent this was quite interesting. But the moral indignation of Bill to the corruption and inequality of the system there didn’t really ring true.

Overall, I was left feeling cheated, this novel could have been so much better.

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