The Confessions of Max Tivoli by Andrew Sean Greer
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Many critics have compared this book to Fitzgerald's "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button", most likely because Greer had the misfortune of having his book published at about the same time the Fitzgerald story was released in film form. Both books do deal with a character born old and aging backwards, but the authors obviously feel so differently about how such a person would move through their world, the comparison must stop with that one character trait. Greer's Max is a man who thinks he knows his fate and lives each day with an ending hanging over his head ((or in this case, around his neck). He lives the life as a victim, always preparing himself for a bad outcome. A loyal, understanding friend isn't seen for the good he brings to Max's life, instead he is used to ease the complications, or worse yet, give way when the girl Max thinks he has fallen in love with falls in love with the friend.
The historical fiction aspect of this book is uneven. The late 1880's through the turn of the century are shown vivedly through Max's recollections of his early years. The small details of living in the days before automobiles and electricity are related in a natural way from someone who had lived through the time and could look back at them fondly and not as a novelty. But as time goes on, the setting becomes less nuanced, and Greer's heavy use of metaphore to replace simple narrative becomes annoying. As Max grows older, his ability to self edit diminishes, drawing out an ending that we knew from the very beginning.
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