What happens when time runs backwards? This is the story of Max Tivoli, who is born an old man and dies as a child  It is also the story of Max Tivoli’s love and obsession with one female and the ruses he must adopt to ensure he stays with his true love for a lifetime.

We must all compromise somewhere in life but these compromises pale into insignificance with those Max must make daily due to his reality.  The language is evocative and true to the story’s setting – late 19th – early 20th century.  It is, by turns, sad, humorous, symbolic, grotesque.

Max could so easily have become a circus freak, yet he manages to remain in mainstream society at great psychologicaly cost by following his mother’s advice: “Be what you seem”.  HIs life is normal only in his 30’s – when his age and his looks coincide.  This is the only time in his life when he can be what he is and, during this time, he gets what he wants.  But only at the price of a grand deception, one which will colour the rest of his life.

I read this book ready to sympathise with Max’s plight, but, amazingly, found that I could not.  Max’s situation forces him to be an observer for most of his life.  Unfortunately he becomes a voyeur and there is always the element of something seedy and ruthless about him.  Beside Max is not the only tragic figure in this novel.  The tragedy of his lifelong friend is greater to my mind.

An interesting book.  Far superior to The Time Traveler’s Wife.  The author abides by the rules of his central premise creating a strong narrative flow with consistent plot development.  1/2

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