The Marriage Act – John Marrs | Book Review | #TheMarriageAct @johnmarrs1 @panmacmillan

From the bestselling author of The One, now an eight-part Netflix series. Set in the same world as The One, The Marriage Act is a dark, high-concept thriller.

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.

Black Mirror meets thriller with a dash of Naomi Alderman’s The Power.


My thanks to the publisher for the tour invite and copy of the book to review. John Marrs has appeared on my blog before – with a fabulous guest post on Writing Rejections in 2016 and with my review of The Passengers (a futuristic story of self driving cars) in 2019. When offered the chance to take part in the tour and review The Marriage Act, I didn’t hesitate – this just looked so good and I loved the high concept thriller aspect.

It is set at some future date in the UK – exact timeframe unknown except for the reference to King William and follows five couples all involved in some way or other with the Smart Marriage. It’s actually scarily plausible and it doesn’t take much imagination to make that leap into this world of surveillance and intrusion. Here the Sanctity of Marriage Act has taken control over every aspect of citizens lives. If you sign up to a Smart Marriage, you get improved living communities, priority health treatment, all manner of financial incentives and tax breaks and more legal rights. However if you choose to stay single, or cohabit unmarried, then you are treated as second class citizens. By upgrading, you agree to have ‘Audite’ recording boxes installed in your home and if AI determines that your marriage is in need of attention, there are various levels of ‘support’ given. One of which is a Relationship Responder who can move in for a time. An intrusive process which ultimately can decide whether you are allowed to stay married or not. There is no privacy, with all aspects of couple’s lives forming part of the investigation process.

Without giving away any plot spoilers, The Marriage Act is an engrossing, shocking, and enthralling read. Our main characters and POVs include an ambitious Vlogger, a former firefighter, a married male couple some of which experience involvement with a Relationship Responder. There were a few characters that were just awful and I was hoping they would get what they deserved.

The whole scenario is absolutely horrendous but does highlight how dangerous it can be to allow AI to determine people’s lives. It’s not just relationships that are futuristic, cars are of course self driving (which links back to the author’s earlier book, similarly with references to DNA matching). There is opposition to the Government policy by way of an action group called Freedom for All and its the two fractions opposing each other that form a large part of the story.

I loved this and picked the book up at every opportunity. It’s the excellent plotting and the consequences of actions not to mention the injustice of the whole concept that I was so invested in. Of course there are curve balls too – one or two events I anticipated but most took me completely unawares.

A hugely enjoyable, entertaining read and highly recommended.

A ‘Smart Marriage’ website has been created as part of the book campaign which includes John Marrs talking about the book and its inspiration

John Marrs is an author and former journalist based in London and Northamptonshire. After spending his career interviewing celebrities from the worlds of television, film and music for numerous national newspapers and magazines, he is now a full-time author. His books include No1 bestseller and Netflix series The One, The Passengers, award winning What Lies Between Us and The Good Samaritan.

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