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The Confessions of Max Tivoli

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  6,756 ratings  ·  839 reviews
"We are each the love of someone's life." So begins The Confessions of Max Tivoli, a heartbreaking love story with a narrator like no other.

Born with the physical appearance of an elderly man, Max grows older mentally like any child, but his body appears to age backwards, growing younger every year. And yet, his physical curse proves to be a blessing, allowing him to try t
Paperback, 288 pages
Published February 1st 2005 by Picador USA (first published 2004)
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Average rating 3.69  · 
Rating details
 ·  6,756 ratings  ·  839 reviews

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Jan 09, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: foolish romantics
Recommended to Jaidee by: a random and welcome choice
3.5 "very enjoyable but short of the bullseye" stars !!

I loves me a good melodrama especially when there is a touch of the fantastical or magical realism.

There was so much to adore about this book. A man ages psychologically and intellectually consecutively but physically ages backwards. In the meantime he loves the same woman three times at different stages of his life while staying true to his best friend and sometimes romantic rival. Throw in late nineteenth century San Francisco, circuses,
Aug 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" revamped; reworked in a very satisfying if melancholy way!

This earlier book by Greer--whose "Less" becomes more & more memorable as time passes--likens the aging-in-reverse weeper-of-an-affliction with homosexuality. For there are monstrosities in the human pool--slightly MORE human solely because of their scourge and plight.

The confessionary is self-serving (for good reason!) & an intimate deconstruction of the theme which Oscar Wilde explored at the time
Mitch Albom
This was the real Benjamin Button story, in my view. A beautifully crafted account of a baby born old who gets younger as he ages.
Dec 05, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Max Tivoli was born looking like a 70 year old man, with white hair, wrinkled skin and liver spots. Though his mind ages normally, his body grows younger with each passing year.

As I read (or, listened to) this book, I couldn't help but wonder how it compares to F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which is essentially (from what I understand) the same story. I've yet to read Benjamin Button, but I would assume that Andrew Sean Greer borrowed heavily from Fitzgerald, even if
Jul 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing
I read this book years ago and it has remained one of my favorites. I'm still recommending it to people. Much like One Hundred Years of Solitude, it's a moving, sad, and funny story about love. It's hard to imagine (although impossible) what it would be like to age backwards. The levels and types of love displayed in this book are amazing. You won't be able to put it down.
Althea Ann
Jun 09, 2010 rated it it was ok
Recommended to me by a friend, this is a good book - but not one that really suited my mood this week. It's a melancholy musing on the futility of love.

The narrator, Max Tivoli, was born appearing to be a wizened old man of 70 - and for his entire life, ages backwards, gaining perspective and experience as physically, he becomes younger.

At 17 (when he appears to be an elderly gentleman), he meets the love of his life, Alice. However, she falls in love with Max's best friend, the young and handso
Sep 14, 2007 rated it it was ok
An interesting concept -- a man is born old and ages backward -- but in the end, I didn't enjoy the book. I came to really dislike the main character, Max. He has a difficult fate, it's true, but he seemed to me to be so consumed with self-pity that he had a hard time relating to anyone else. And he's so very passive -- uninterested in his job or his world. He even sleeps through the San Francisco earthquake! What's the point of placing your novel during the 1906 earthquake if your protagonist s ...more
Robin Tobin (On the back porch reading)
My thoughts are still out on this one.
Some parts I liked and made me think.
Other parts didn't sit well and made me shake my head wondering "Why?".....

PopSugar 2020 - Book with a great first line..... "We are each the love of someones life."
Jan 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Andrew Sean Greer's novel took a bit of time to weave its spell for me, but once the spell was cast, I was thoroughly enchanted. Greer conjures up a gorgeous, bustling turn-of-the-20th-century San Francisco, my beloved City, with details so precise and poignant that they will stay with you long after you are done reading. And Max Tivoli, born old and growing ever younger, faces terrible obstacles in love, but then, so do we all. "Be what they think you are," Max Tivoli's parents implore him at t ...more
Larry H
Jul 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
This book has been on my shelf for a long time, but I finally picked it up the other day and flew through it. I thought this was great! I agree with some of the other reviewers in that the main character wasn't completely likable, but I found the story really interesting (and even a little heart-breaking). It takes a little while to build up steam, but it's well worth the effort.
Kubis Gergő
Jun 05, 2020 rated it liked it
3.5 stars
Jul 30, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, reviewed
The premise of this book was tantalizing: a man who ages in reverse tries to find and win his one true love time after time. I was hoping it would be akin to The Time Traveler's Wife, whose characters I quickly came to love. The Confessions of Max Tivoli, though, is a completely different beast. For one, I had no idea that it would be narrated in the style of a Victorian novel, complete with frequent exhortations to the "Dear Reader." The prose was lovely, but initially, I found the style a bit ...more
Apr 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Megan by: Claire Whitmore
Shelves: fiction, favorites
"We are each the love of someone's life." Greer always has a great opening line. Wonderful, wonderful novel. The idea of aging backwards now makes us think of "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button", which then makes us think of S. Scott Fitzgerald. But published in 2004, "The Confessions of Max Tivoli" stands completly on its own merit. The whole idea of this book is so imaginative, regardless of where Greer's inspiration came from (a Bob Dylan song actually), he exectuted it beautifully. Greer's ...more
I loved the movie Benjamin Button. I loved Brad Pitt playing Benjamin Button. Not even the idea of visualizing Brad Pitt reading me this book while soaking up some sun with a margarita in hand would make this book any better.

I cannot remember the last time I disliked a character so much all I wanted to do was punch his whole face in. Whiny, selfish and immature, Max Tivoli kind of makes me hate Brad Pitt, and all the man did was play the main character in the adaptation of this book.

And while I
Apr 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the more finely wrought things I've read in a while. The prose is beautiful (some might say purple, but it really worked for me), the story weird and funny (and sometimes a little creepy) and crushing. I read it quickly but it deserves to be read slowly.
Jun 23, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: sophisticated, educated readers who are not too jaded to enjoy a tall tale or a meaningful fantasy
This is one of the better books I've read in quite awhile. Part of this is because I haven't been reading much this year, but also this is a beautifully worded book, a delicious slow read with an imaginative premise and poetry and philosophy on nearly every page. It has, however, two unforgivable flaws.

The most glaring unforgivable flaw is the ending, which is frankly unworthy of the rest of the book, in the words of my true love "a cop-out all around." I won't discuss that here (but might on my
Apr 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
It's hard for me to dislike any book that makes me cry several times or, in this case, for the last 50 pages. The middle of this book did drag a little and the writing was, yes, a little purple at times BUT the last 100 pages were a real feat of structure and storytelling and the writing was especially beautiful.

You know it can't end well considering it's a Benjamin Button-like story, but I was still struck by how sad it became and not just for one single reason but so many frustrating circumsta
Mar 26, 2009 rated it liked it
I can't decide if I would have like this more or less if I had not seen "Benjamin Buttons". I am not sure why the movie purports to be based on a short story by Gatsby because this book seems too much like the movie to be coincidence. Regardless, it is more interesting in some ways because the love story is so much more complicated and the setting is San Francisco, rather than the whole world. The psychological aspects of aging backwards are explored in much greater detail through this narrative ...more
May 19, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is a delicate task to write a book in which the main character repeatedly ruins the life of and frightens almost to death another major character and to make that protagonist sympathetic. You understand why he does what he does, you see how he fools himself into believing the consequences of his actions will not be bad as they truly unfold to be, and you watch with great empathy for both him and his victim. It is a balancing act to show such obsessive love as Andrew Sean Greer does in The Con ...more
Jul 16, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Erika Miller
May 04, 2018 rated it it was ok
This wasn't terrible, but the main character was far too self-centered for my liking. His "confessions" droned on, and revealed a highly unlikeable person. We should be striving for something more in our lives than seeking to arrange the universe as we see fit. Max thought only of himself throughout his life...strange and difficult as it was and managed to use up anyone he got close too. This made the story difficult for me to get through. At best, we can take Max's oft quoted wisdom, "We are ea ...more
Ron Charles
Dec 16, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Social scientist Margaret Gullette has published a book called "Aged by Culture," which argues that elderly attitudes prescribe the course of physical decline more than our chromosomes do (reviewed Jan. 13). I was particularly interested because my graduating class is gearing up for a landmark college reunion amid the usual mutterings about who looks great and who is "showing a lot of courage." My own anxieties in that department weren't quelled when my daughter reassured me that I'm not old, I' ...more
Ann Goldman
Jun 09, 2019 rated it liked it
Max is a creep. Of course, he's a creep. How could you not be a creep when you're a 17-year-old inside a 60-year-old man's body? Or vice versa. But, it's hard to sympathize with a creep.

Ultimately, it's a tragic story. Well written, but I didn't like any of the characters, so it fell a little flat for me.

Angie Mogilefsky
Jun 17, 2019 rated it liked it
A original concept with technically difficult and sophisticated story structure, but I liked his novel Less much better. I felt that the narrator was incredibly selfish, which hurt at times, but I needed to find out what happened at the end.
Molli B.
Jun 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
I read this way back when it was new, and I barely remember anything other than that I really enjoyed it. If I ever unearth my copy, I'll reread it.
Steve Tetreault
I have to start keeping better track of which sources are recommending books to me so I can figure out which one of my sources keeps hitting sour notes...

The central premise of the book, that the protagonist's body is aging in reverse after he is born looking like an old man, seems like it could be interesting. But while that central oddity drives the main action of the book and is a constant source of motivation for the plot, it's almost treated like a background element. It is not explored in
May 19, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: people who like romances
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 sto
Nov 08, 2011 rated it liked it

You might be surprised that this book preceded the move "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button", which was made after I read it (in 2008), and that the two works are unconnected. Except, of course, for the central plot idea, which Greer might have also borrowed from F. Scott Fitzgerald: a child is born in an old man's body and from there ages backwards.

Despite the sci-fi premise, the story is lyrical and character-focused. Greer, admirably, doesn't give Max any easy outs from his situation o
Sep 15, 2007 rated it liked it
I launched into this book on the basis that I feel like I don’t read enough local authors. I definitely - in my head - support local artists, local authors, local press, etc., but sometimes it hard to put that into practice. So I did, and I was rewarded for my, you know, doing what I should be doing.

I knew the general plot going in, but the details of it still kind of hit you. However, once you get used to the conceit - the story of a man who is living life in reverse, born as an old man and gro
May 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own, fiction
What a fascinating and original book. Set during turn of the century San Francisco, poor Max Tivoli is a boy unlike any other. He is born a tiny, wrinkled old man and ages in reverse. This story follows his life as he tries to adjust to his “condition.” His mother teaches him to live by the golden rule: “Be what they think you are.” However, Max considers himself a monster. In fact, this is a memoir of an extremely sensitive, but sometimes selfish, man who wants nothing but what life has to offe ...more
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Missing earthquake piece from my memory... 1 3 Nov 25, 2018 08:25PM  
Like "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"? 18 516 Oct 14, 2011 08:06PM  
What's the Name o...: SOLVED. Benjamin Button -- man ages backward? [s] 3 52 Aug 22, 2008 11:30AM  

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Andrew Sean Greer (born 1970) is an American novelist and short story writer.

He is the bestselling author of The Story of a Marriage, which The New York Times has called an “inspired, lyrical novel,” and The Confessions of Max Tivoli, which was named one of the best books of 2004 by the San Francisco Chronicle and received a California Book Award.

The child of two scientists, Greer studied writing

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“People always say the greatest love story in the world is Romeo and Juliet. I don't know. At fourteen, at seventeen, I remember, it takes over your whole life." Alice was worked up now, her face flushed and alive, her hands cutting through the night-blooming air. "You think about nobody, nothing else, you don't eat or sleep, you just think about this . . . it's overwhelming. I know, I remember. But is it love? Like how you have cheap brandy when you're young and you think it's marvelous, just so elegant, and you don't know, you don't know anything . . . because, you've never tasted anything better. You're fourteen."

It was no time for lying. "I think it's love"

You do?"

I think maybe it's the only true love."

She was about to say something, and stopped herself. I'd surprised her, I suppose. "How sad if you're right," she said, closing her eyes for a moment. "Because we never end up with them. How sad and stupid if that's how it works.”
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