Novel Review: The Confessions of Max Tivoli

Story by Andrew Sean Greer
Published by Picador, imprint of Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN10: 0312423810
ISBN13: 9780312423810

Review by Linda Yau

Although, their plot may sound similar – The Confessions of Max Tivoli is not the same as The Curious Case of Benjamen Button. I kid you not, although this might be an attraction to read a plot alike book. Both have protagonists that ages backward, and I believe that is where the similarities end. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I have read The Confessions Of Max Tivoli.

Max Tivoli is a person who was born at 1871 with the appearance of a 70 year old. He was expected and calculated by his mother to die at 1941, exactly 70 years later. This seems to be a strange experience right?

Max certainly try live his life as normally as he can, but under a rule: “Be what they think you are.”

He met his best friend, Hugie when he was six years old, and the love of his life, Alice when he 16 years old. All the while, his body ages backwards, and his appearance younger with each passing year. Unfortunately, as he tried to justify his age and actions – things happen and it makes the reader understand the folly of how short life is.

He eventually marries Alice under a different name, and when the truth was revealed, Alice leaves him, bearing a son.

Later when Max finds Hugie as an older man. They pose as father and son, and visits Alice. However Hugie soon dies, and in the end, with an ending that is similar to Invisible Man by Ralph Waldo Ellison – it shows Max Tivoli accepting his life, and the story is concluded on a feeling and reflection of where it all began; similar to a circle.

This book is written in first person with Max as narrator, trying to write his life’s story before he gets too young to tell anyone his story. This book has employs flash back, and has rich descriptions of historical events and of various experience.

I truly pity Max as a character, but would recommend this as a book people who would want to read a serious historical fiction novel.

This book was recommended as a book club’s book, and here is a pdf to guide book clubs for discussion as well as Picador’s own Book guide page.