Kasa Cotugno's Reviews > The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim

The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim by Jonathan Coe
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's review
Feb 05, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: location-europe-britain-scotland, arc
Read from February 05 to 11, 2011

How does it feel to be a part of someone else's story? But, what if that story is your own? Max Sim finds out in this wonderfully readable picaresque novel, in which he discovers that the role he played in the lives of others was more than just tangential.

Max finds himself in a Prius, motoring up to the Shetland Islands, as part of a PR gambit to retail "green" toothbrushes, purportedly sustainable and ecofriendly. That's funny right there. On the way he makes several stops, revisiting his past and performing errands for others along the way. In the course of his journey, he comes across various writings that illuminate his past in surprising ways, proving that his presence in the lives of others loomed larger than he'd realized. The book has more than its share of introspection, not only on Max's part, but those of the authors of the works he reads along the way. The only criticism I'd have is that the voices of the other authors were not as distinctly different from that of Max himself, but that is just a minor quibble. The real focus of the book is the perceived alienation of self in today's world, which is belied by our interconnectedness. Jonathan Coe is one of our most surprising writers. His work is hard to quantify, and he has provided some of my favorite books in recent years. While this book is not as haunting as "The Rain Before it Falls," there is a quixotic clarity to it and it contains inherent literary joke at its center,

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