Latest Issue

The loneliness of the long-distance driver

Few authors are funnier than Jonathan Coe, and his latest book is as sharp as ever. But its attempt to redefine the state-of the-nation novel is too contrived

By Sam Leith   June 2010

The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim by Jonathan Coe (Penguin, £12.99)

We know, or think we know, roughly what a state-of-the-nation novel looks like, don’t we? It looks something like Blake Morrison’s South of the River or Sebastian Faulks’s A Week In December. It’s usually urban; it generally has a wide sweep; it takes in a range of representative characters; it’s not always a comic novel but it’s always a comedy; its ancestors are panoramic and Victorian.

Jonathan Coe knows all about those: he’s written a couple of them himself. But in The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim, he…

Register today to continue reading

You’ve hit your limit of three articles in the last 30 days. To get seven more, simply enter your email address below.

You’ll also receive our free e-book Prospect’s Top Thinkers 2020 and our newsletter with the best new writing on politics, economics, literature and the arts.

Prospect may process your personal information for our legitimate business purposes, to provide you with newsletters, subscription offers and other relevant information.

Click here to learn more about these purposes and how we use your data. You will be able to opt-out of further contact on the next page and in all our communications.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to

More From Prospect