The Terrible Privacy Of Maxwell Sim Hardcover – 27 May 2010
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It takes real panache to write with such comedic ease; his pacing throughout is superb and delivers realististic dialogue, and, hence believable charcters... Coe's sympathy for his creation is contagious (Robert Epstein Indpendent on Sunday )
Max is silly but he makes him more than a figure of ridicule. Instead, he understands him, shows us what it is to be ineloquent in company, to have bland tastes and a childlike need fot sameness, to not be very good at things. Through that understanding he gives us witty and tender humanity, and reminds us that while winners write the history, it is life's losers, such as Max, who have the best stories (Simon Baker Spectator )
Coe takes a risk in using the nerdish Sim as principal spokesman, but he carries it off by empathy, comedy and a venriloquist's ear for idiom. The conclusion to this fine novel, an ending in which Jonathan Coe himself plays a speaking part, is witty, unexpected and curiously unsettling
(Pamela Norris Literary Review )
The Terrible Privacy is more intimate than Coe's previous novels. Coe may blackly satirise an atomised 21st-century Britain pockmarked by Travelodges and in thrall to the empty caress of instant messaging but this geographical and cultural hinterland is really a physical correlative for Sim's existential crisis (Claire Allfree Metro )
cunningly plotted, extremely well-written and very, very funny (Mark Sanderson Daily Telegraph )
An engaging novel (Lianne Kolirin The Express )
Coe's book is as funny and as well written as you'd expect: even the banality of Maxwell's mind is rendered deadpan, with wonderful lightness. It is archly and artfully structured, too; though I can't, without spoiling a plot that delivers revelations and switch backs in careful sequence, go deeply into how (Sam Leith Prospect Magazine )
Coe has always been a virtuoso of voice. He is the master of the kind of distinctively English comedy that has its roots in Fielding and Sterne (Jonathan Derbyshire New Statesman )
Funny and touching (Grazia )
A highly engaging portrait of both a man and a society that have lost their way (Michael Arditti Daily Mail )
The plot is everything Max is not: clever, engaging, and spring-loaded with mysteries and surprises (Caroline McGinn Time Out London )
exceptionally moving...[managing] to tell us something about loneliness, failure and the inability to cope that we haven't quite read before (Alex Clark The Guardian )
Very funny (RED )
About the Author
Jonathan Coe was born in Birmingham in 1961. He has written eight previous novels, most recently The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim (2010), all of which are available in Penguin. His biography of the novelist B. S. Johnson, Like a Fiery Elephant, won the 2005 Samuel Johnson Prize for best non-fiction book of the year. He lives in London with his wife and two children.
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Top Customer Reviews
The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim explores many contemporary themes, among them our ability to not actually communicate properly, in a world where communication is supposedly easy, the effects of a marriage breakdown and the loneliness this brings and how one town in the UK looks very much like any other. However, form the outset, Max is not an entirely likeable character, and whilst I recognise many of the themes explored, felt it difficult to empathize with him.
The events early in the book lead him to making a journey to the Shetland Islands in order to deliver on his new employers promise of "We go further"; on the way, Max meets characters from his life, and at each stage learns something new about himself, or his family which causes him to reflect on why he is where and what he is.
The book is readable, and by no means poor, but I did not think in the same league as Coe's earlier novels, particularly What a Carve Up!and The Rotters' Club. Pages seemed to turn very quickly, as you wondered what would happen next on his journey, with his new-found friend, the Sat-Nav in his car.
However, there was just "something" missing...and I cannot put my finger on what. Maybe it was my inability to empathize, or just my lack of understanding of Max's view on life in general.
Now, back to my initial line. As I said, the book was not "bad" and was heading for four stars, but the ending..... oh my word the ending. I am not one to spoil it for anyone, but yes Denise (another reviewer here) I too felt cheated, as having read the best part of 350 pages, I thought as a reader, I deserved more than that! Too "clever" for anyone, methinks!
This is pseudo dilemma that would appeal to the protagonist of this tale, the ever bewildered and alienated Maxwell Sim. His life has disintegrated in true wet cardboard style, leaving a soggy, easily torn fabric for a soul, prey to inappropriate yearnings for attachment, looking for love in all the wrong places.
All but ignored by a cold and distant father, bereft of a mother, on the wrong end of his own family's breakdown, Maxwell is in an airport in Sydney, having just endured another failed attempt to communicate with his father. He spies a mother and child in what seems real and warm loving relationship, wrapped up in each other and playing cards. This is the twitch on the thread that starts him on a forlorn journey back to England and then up to the wilds of Scotland on a doomed sales venture. Along the way he will meet a cast of characters, all of which he misunderstands, tries for an inappropriate connection, or romance, most of the time all of the above. He learns of the story of Donald Crowhurst, the tragic figure who went fatally mad trying to sail round the world, and then fabricate its completion, and then to his horror, Sim finds his life and Crowhurst's becoming one...
There is much that I enjoyed with this book.Read more ›
Following the departure of his wife and daughter and six months off work with depression, he eventually resigns from his uninspiring job in After-Sales Customer Liaison (aka Returns) for a department store, to take up a seemingly crazy job offer which involves selling eco-friendly toothbrushes in one of the most remote locations in Britain. His time on the road gives Max the opportunity to catch up with old friends and drag a few skeletons out of the closet, but, above all, he gets to spend some time alone (his terrible privacy) to reflect on the hand life has dealt him. I say "alone" ... he does become a bit too emotionally-dependent on his SatNav, even giving `her' a name and seeking her advice on more than just the quickest route to take and how to avoid traffic jams.
Jonathan Coe has a wonderful way of making mundane events seem humorous and slightly bizarre, and he has a brilliant ear for surreal dialogue (a great example being the hilarious three-way conversation Max has with the parents of an old school friend). Max is an unreliable but very endearing narrator, and his blundering attempts to make friends and his lack of insight into how others perceive him are painful to witness at times (but also very funny).Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Really enjoyed reading the book, couldn't put it down. Glad I didn't see the negative reviews before I read it. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Natalia
Maxwell Sim may be the least prepossessing hero of a book you will ever meet. His marriage has failed and his wife and daughter have removed themselves from the family home. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Eileen Shaw
A journey of a man to discover himself sounds tortuously dull - and yes, I did read all of the truly awful Pilgimage of Harold Fry - but then remember this is Jonathan Coe. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Dillon the Villain
He seems to draw some inspiration from John Fowles here with the use of metafiction which I don't think he pulls off but I think he delivers the goods on his other points like... Read morePublished 17 months ago by keen reader
I have little to add to the other reviews at this stage, save that I too thought the ending of the book a letdown, albeit a minor one, although the careful reader might have had an... Read morePublished 18 months ago by JJA Kiefte
Not the ending I expected, although how I missed it I'll never know. Gently amusing and a travelogue of places I have known over the years. Read morePublished 22 months ago by Kevin Murphy
As always with Jonathan Coe, entertainment is guaranteed. The narrator (as usual) is naive and unselfconscious, but made thoroughly likeable. Read morePublished on 8 July 2014 by Hebridean exile
I didn't hate or dislike this book.. well not most of the time anyway... I rode the waves of interest and disappointment... liking and disliking... Read morePublished on 21 April 2014 by pathfinder