Book Review: The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim by Jonathan Coe

The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim by Jonathan Coe

I read this book because it is the book of the month for my online book group boekgrrls. Actually, it was on my wishlist too, so I was keen to read it anyway.

I really like the cover. One thing was odd: when there was talk of toothbrushes in the story, the next time I looked at the cover I realised there are two yellow toothbrushes depicted. I had not noticed them before, I had not even noticed that there was anything yellow in the cover. How odd!

The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim: What it is about

Maxwell Sim is estranged from his father and his wife left him about half a year ago, together with their daughter Lucy. He’s been on sick leave from his job for a while now and has to make up his mind: go back to work or quit.

Then an old friend makes him an offer: drive to the North of Scotland for a toothbrush promotion. As there is no real hurry, he stops off on the way to visit several people from his past. That way, he’s confronted with his past but also learns some new things about his father, especially. Along the way, he also learns something new about himself.

The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim: What I thought

Well written, fast paced book. I didn’t particularly like Maxwell, but I did care for him. He was a bit of a loser and ready to give up. But he used the chances he got, and things turned out better for him eventually.

The ending was odd, though, and rather… deflating. What happens in the end negates the whole story, and that is a pity. I didn’t see the need for this at all. Still, I had a really good read so it’s a 5 star book for me, even with that ending.

It’s a fast read and one that you can put down, but when you do, in the back of your mind you remember that there is something nice waiting for you!

Rating: 5/5

I got this book: from the library

I read this in: Dutch (De afschuwelijke eenzaamheid van Maxwell Sim), the original language is English

Number of pages: 411

First published: 2010

Genre: contemporary fiction, literary fiction


About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

18 Responses to Book Review: The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim by Jonathan Coe

  1. Cindy says:

    Sounds a goodie. (I also didn’t see the toothbrushes until you mentioned them.)

  2. Oh, this one sounds intriguing. I hadn’t seen this one before, so thanks for spotlighting it. I don’t think I’ve every heard of a book that uses toothbrushes as the catalyst for the plot. I’m sorry that the ending was less than stellar. It’s great that you can appreciate the book despite that. Says a lot about the author’s ability as a writer.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Jenna, the toothbrushes weren’t the main thing, Maxwell was on a toothbrush advertising trip.

      The book was such fun to read that I didn’t mind the ending. 🙂

  3. JoV says:

    I saw this on the airport when I was travelling to Scotland and I saw it everywhere in the bookstores in Scotland! I am glad you like it so much, I like fun books too and I have put in on my online list for the library yesterday (before you post, you can read mind!!).

    • Leeswammes says:

      Jo, the book partially takes place in Scotland – so maybe that’s why it’s so popular there. Or is the author Scottish? I don’t know now. Anyway, I think you’ll like this one.

      • JoV says:

        Sim is a common Scottish last name. Jonathan Coe however is an Englishman.

        I will try to read this. so many books to read Judith! Arghh!!

  4. Gnoe says:

    Just looking on the 5-star rating — and not any further yet because I still haven’t touched the damn book lying on my bedside table! Want to, just not getting around to it. Do I sound frustrated to you? 😉

    • Leeswammes says:

      Yes, you do, Gnoe! I hope you get around to it soon. It’s a fun read and a quick one too.

      I should say I’ve been reading 2 books concurrently this week (one is a read-a-long) and I don’t seem to be getting anywhere, either. No 3, 4 books finished this week, for sure!

  5. Ellie says:

    I’ll keep an eye out for this, my book group read Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close a few months ago and everyone really enjoyed it.

  6. Ellie says:

    Ignore me, it’s not the same author at all!

  7. Erna (boekenwijs) says:

    A book that is on my wishlist for a while already. Your very positive rating makes me want to get to it soon…

  8. Lucybird says:

    Thanks for commenting on my review. You know of course I felt a similar way about the end, but I think I am more intrigued by why Coe wrote it, I think it would be interesting to ask him about it.

    I too did not notice the toothbrushes on the cover until I was some way into the story, isn’t that strange?!

  9. Pingback: The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim by Jonathan Coe « Bibliojunkie

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