Review of Jonathan Coe’s The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim

A typical entry into the crazy literary world of Jonathan Coe, this book doesn’t disappoint with Coe’s usual play with form, digression, stories within stories and metafiction, delivered with hugely comic panache but at the same time imbuing the major characters with pathos and a powerlessness with which most ordinary mortals can identify. If there is a problem it is that Coe’s facility with the English language and literary form, his ability to twist and turn the narrative in so many different ways, creates such admiration in me as a fellow writer, that I was sometimes lured away from the plot. <br> Maxwell Sim, the protagonist of this story, is a nerdy, somewhat anal character but his dilemmas and loneliness are common to many people in our modern world. Although often poking fun at the character, Coe at the same time creates sympathy for him and the hope that things will turn out well for him in the end. Coe uses coincidence, missed opportunities and possibilities to the extreme in this novel building up a higgledy piggledy narrative of fantastic proportions which climbs to its unforeseen conclusion in a somehow logical manner. Maxwell Sim is, despite, the fantasies, an eminently credible character – until you get to the end.

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