Claire Monahan's Reviews > The Confessions of Max Tivoli

The Confessions of Max Tivoli by Andrew Sean Greer
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's review
May 24, 08

liked it
bookshelves: wee-bit-overrated, romance
Recommended for: people who like romances
Read in May, 2008

It's now been twenty-one hours since I finished this book, and my afterthoughts have definitely fluctuated since then. However, I think three stars is still a reasonable rating for Max Tivoli. As a solid character alone, though, that rating would be too generous.

I think I've come to my own conclusion that I'm much harsher on romance stories than any other genre of books. Rarely have I come upon one that has knocked me off my feet (The English Patient in particular), but I can't imagine that story having nearly as much of an impact had it not been the writing style of Michael Ondaatje. Andrew Sean Greer tried hard, and this is a pretty good shot at the genre. The book contains some scenes that are so beautifully woven, and some of the sentences are velvet on the page. But I feel the biggest letdown is Greer wants Max Tivoli to be the next Humbert Humbert, who he absolutely cannot be. Tivoli is not nearly strong nor selfish enough to maintain a level of love as concentrated and bizarre as that in Lolita, which I can't help feeling is a reasonable comparison to the format and narrative of this book. In a way, I could never get over the perverseness of Tivoli falling in love with a fourteen year-old girl. To me, the love never had a foundation. I never wanted to love Alice too, and I never found myself rooting for Tivoli, either. Sadly enough, I think this review has made me realize how little I cared.

I still give three stars. The concept of 'Tivoli' intrigued me well enough, and I would love to see the same backwards-living life story told from a perspective of a completely different person.
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