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I think this is two books in one novel. One a quite funny critique of modern Britain and its town centre sameness and the ultimate loneliness of modern society. The other, better book, is about attaching meaning to meaningless random events and eventually finding some sort of resolution to your problems.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
If you've read Coe's previous fiction, you know that the novel preceding this one, "The Rain Before It Falls", was a departure from all his earlier work in having very little humor; instead it was an elegaic story about memory, family secrets, and how we piece together other people's stories. "The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim" shares all of those themes but restores the comedy: plenty of moments in this novel are demonically funny, though usually more in the ironic mode than laugh-out-loud. (Although Sim's romance with his satnav, aka GPS, is pretty hilarious.) Fans of Coe's earlier fiction should enjoy this one, and for new readers this is a good one to start with.
The narrator and main character, Maxwell Sim, starts off as such a sad sack—or schlemiel, or sorry sod, depending on your idiom—that he's a bit painful to travel along with at first. But Colin Buchanan's narrative voice is energetic enough that Sim never becomes boring. (Buchanan, who is Scottish, does a good job with the variety of northern, Midland, Southern English and Australian accents of the novel's main characters.)
The novel has a somewhat unexpected happy ending--well, mostly happy--and a puzzlingly self-indulgent little epilogue that Coe should probably have left off and that knocks the fifth star off my rating.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
A story very well told. I'm loving Jonathan Coe more and more after I finish reading each book of his. It is about a man who could be any of us who has to cope with his immense lack of affect coming from far away in the past, from the relationship with his parents. The journey he accidentally gets involved in leads him through a parallel deep journey inside his feelings path who gets him to a sort of clue at the end. The writing is absolutely brilliant and intrigueing; it made me laugh and cry to death, realizing how the journey towards our self consciousness can be very long and hard for many of us. There's a message of hope in it I deeply share with the author: when you get to the very bottom and there's no more to dig the only thing you can do is raise up to the top. On the other side we have to keep in mind that we are not eternal, the sooner we get to the clue, the better we can live the rest our life, which can end from one moment to the other just like a snap of fingers.
Colin Buchanan has been a very nice company, nearly a close friend for the days of listening, funny and extraordinarly communicative as touching and reachable in his deep sensibility and warmth. Very hard to part from Jonathan and Colin by now but I'm pretty sure we'll see each other soon. Five stars, highly recommended!!!!!