THE MARRIAGE ACT
What if marriage was the law? Dare you disobey?
Britain. The near-future. A right-wing government believes it has the answer to society’s ills – the Sanctity of Marriage Act, which actively encourages marriage as the norm, punishing those who choose to remain single.
But four couples are about to discover just how impossible relationships can be when the government is monitoring every aspect of our personal lives, monitoring every word, every minor disagreement . . . and will use every tool in its arsenal to ensure everyone will love, honour and obey.
I really enjoy Black Mirror style dystopian thriller stories, and as I’m getting married in 2023, this book certainly caught my eye!
The premise is a strong one; the government have stepped in and introduced ‘Smart Marriages’ – the idea being that as married couples are likely to live longer, happier lives, they will be entitled to better housing and healthcare perks. There’s always a catch though, isn’t there? As well as singletons becoming akin to second-class citizens, each Smart Marriage comes with an Audite (think Alexa integrated with your smart-watch), which monitors random snippets of your conversations and flags them to the authorities if it spots trouble in your marriage!
John Marrs weaves some realistic word building – using newspaper articles and promotional material on the Smart Marriages to really show us how this technology became the norm in society. It’s actually really easy to see how this had been implemented and accepted and this made it all the more sinister! My only caveat was that even though it’s set in the future, there’s still references made to Twitter, which considering what is happening at the moment jarred a little – I think perhaps creating a whole new social media platform would have been a better step! There were some references to self-driving cars, and I think this is set in the same world as other books from John Marrs (such as The Passengers) which is really well done and will add a whole new element for readers of those books too.
The chapters jump perspective between quite a few characters and their partners – Roxi: a wannabe social media influencer, Jefferey: a Relationship Responder, Corrine: an activist against the system, Antony: a government official and Arthur: an elderly man scared of change. Each character gave a unique perspective on the events unfolding, although I certainly had viewpoints I preferred and some which I wanted to skip over in places. Arthur’s story in particular was heart-breaking and really well written. I thought there were perhaps too many of these as there were a lot of characters to get your head around in places. The pace was kept high throughout though and there were some really well-written twists that I did not see coming. The twist early in the book gets a very special mention – I was thinking about it for a long time afterwards!
Overall, The Marriage Act is a cautionary tale and one that feels uncomfortably close to our reality at present. Thank you to NetGalley & Pan Macmillan for the chance to read the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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