The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim
By Jonathan Coe
(Vintage Books, Paperback, 9780307742155, 384pp.)
Publication Date: March 6, 2012
List Price: $15.95*
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Maxwell Sim can’t seem to make a single meaningful connection. He maintains an e-mail correspondence with his estranged wife, though under a false identity; his incomprehensible teenage daughter prefers her BlackBerry to his conversation; and his childhood best friend refuses to return his calls. In an attempt to get out of this horrible rut, Max quits his job at the local department store and accepts a strange business proposition that has him driving a Prius full of toothbrushes from London to the remote Shetland Islands. But Max’s trip doesn’t go as planned, as he’s unable to resist making a series of impromptu visits to important figures from his past.
A modern-day picaresque from Jonathan Coe—acclaimed author of The Rotters’ Club—The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim explores the difficulties of making genuine connections in a world of advanced communications technology and rampant social networking.
“Delightful. . . . [Sim is] a fumbling contemporary Quixote.”
—San Francisco Chronicle
“Very, very funny. There are many contemporary writers who can make you laugh, but Coe is one of the few whose comic set pieces do that and feel like miniature works of art.”
“A compelling, poignant read. . . . Coe cleverly plays with the reclusive-in-plain-sight notion and pokes gentle fun at our society’s love affair with modern gadgetry.”
“Funny, acerbic and, most of all, a novel that could not have been born at any other time than the present.”
“An amiably lunatic journey into the unknown. . . . Coe’s satirical eye is as dependable as ever.”
“A smart satire of materialism and modern life. . . . Coe is a funny writer, and it's a testament to his skill with character that for all of his hero’s maddening faults and failures, Sim never wears out his welcome. . . . Much like its targets, the book stubbornly delivers moments of humor and humanity.”
—Los Angeles Times
“Most entertaining. . . . A parable about the feeling many now have of not being in control of their own story.”
—The Independent (London)
“Cunningly plotted, extremely well-written and very, very funny.”
—The Telegraph (London)
“Exceptionally moving. . . . [It tells] us something about loneliness, failure and the inability to cope that we haven’t quite read before.”
—The Guardian (London)
“Clever, engaging, and spring-loaded with mysteries and surprises.”
—Time Out London
“Coe’s voice, spoken through Max’s perspective, effuses the novel with an easy, understated and satirical sense of humor that is a joy to read. . . . An excellent and entertaining take on how our countless methods of modern communication are making it harder to truly connect.”
—The Daily Texan
“[Coe] gives us witty and tender humanity, and reminds us that while the winners write the history, it is life’s losers who have the best stories.”
“Masterly. . . . [Coe’s] eye for the details of contemporary life remains as sharp as ever.”
—Daily Mail (London)
“[A] beguiling combination of picaresque comic adventure, meditation on the idea of meta-narrative, and thought-provoking reflection on the place of social media in our lives.”