H R Koelling's Reviews > The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim

The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim by Jonathan Coe
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's review
Mar 22, 11

really liked it
Read in March, 2011

This is a brilliant novel by a very talented author. I had a hard time putting this book down despite the fact that I didn't think I'd like it at first. It's always a hit and miss thing with me when it comes to British literature, but this was a definite hit.

I really liked how Mr. Coe intertwined several short stories into the tale although I was, initially, a little put off. The short stories enhanced the novel and the arc of the plot. Some of these short stories can stand alone in a volume of short stories, but their inclusion in this novel melded perfectly with the entirety of the book.

I also think the author is very gifted for his insights into human nature and contemporary human interactions. All of the characters are extremely well developed, so much so that the final chapter addresses the existence of the protagonist. I felt that each of the people we meet in this novel have their own quirks and idiosyncrasies that are reflections of the same issues each of us struggle with in one way or another. That said, although this novel isn't meant to be instructive because of these insights, I found the novel to be one of those rare instances where I came away with a deeper understanding of how all of us share the same thoughts and fears. For this reason, I loved the book.

On the other hand, I was somewhat disappointed by the ending. It isn't that hard to figure out where the novel is taking the main character, if you think about it, but I have to admit that I didn't actually expect what transpires until just about where it is revealed. I guess I just wish there had been a different outcome, although I believe many readers will find the ending a satisfying finish to a well thought out and well crafted novel. The main character experiences a joyous epiphany, which makes for a very upbeat and positive conclusion.

A couple of extra notes:

The discussions of professional financial shenanigans in this book are amazing. I like how the author's descriptions of some of the financial problems facing our current worldwide economies were discussed at several times by various characters.

The final chapter is bizarre! I'm not sure what the point of it is. I don't know if it is meant to be an epitaph or an acknowledgment of some sort. I think the title of the chapter is an insight into the meaning of its inclusion, but I believe I would have liked the novel better if he had not included this final bit of palaver. Perhaps it is some sort of stamp the author puts on his works? I really don't understand it, except in a very basic sense, which is, perhaps, all it is meant to be. There were several lapses into the first person in this novel, but the final chapter comes across as autobiography, which seems entirely out of place.

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