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1. Theatre
2. The Razor's Edge
3. Collected Stories (Everyman's
4. The Land of The Blessed Virgin;
5. A Writer's Notebook (Vintage International)
6. Cakes and Ale
7. The Moon & Sixpence
8. The Complete Short Stories of
9. Collected Short Stories: Volume
10. The Painted Veil
11. Up at the Villa
12. Works of W. Somerset Maugham.
13. The Hero
14. Tellers of Tales 1ST Edition
15. Liza of Lambeth
16. Of Human Bondage (Signet Classics)
17. The Collected Short Stories of
18. The Narrow Corner (Vintage International)
19. The Merry-go-round
20. Rain and Other South Sea Stories

1. Theatre
by W. Somerset Maugham
Paperback: 304 Pages (2001-03-13)
list price: US$13.95 -- used & new: US$5.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 037572463X
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
In Theatre, W. Somerset Maugham–the author of the classic novels Of Human Bondage and Up at the Villa–introduces us to Julia Lambert, a woman of breathtaking poise and talent whose looks have stood by her forty-six years.She is one of the greatest actresses England–so good, in fact, that perhaps she never stops acting.

It seems that noting can ruffle her satin feathers, until a quiet stranger who challenges Julia's very sense of self. As a result, she will endure rejection for the first time, her capacity as a mother will be affronted, and her ability to put on whatever face she desired for her public will prove limited. In Theatre, Maugham subtly exposes the tensions and triumphs that occur when acting and reality blend together, and–for Julia–ultimately reverse. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (10)

5-0 out of 5 stars High drama
Julia Lambert is an ageing star of the London stage. She stands at the summit of her art and reputation, but there is no substitute for youth and the elation that the attentions of a younger man can provide, especially since her husband Michael's principal preoccupation is with safeguarding her career. In Theatre, Maugham follows a similar plot line as in Of Human Bondage and The Painted Veil: the heroine (hero) falls in love with someone who only exploits and doesn't deserve her (him), with disastrous results until... (all right, I won't say until what).

Yet just because the topic isn't entirely new does not mean it isn't the occasion for the same trepidation and anguished, page-turning scenes. And Maugham knows his subject. He was a playwright. His novel is a realistic picture of the early 20th-century thespian milieu. In fact, it dispels many of the commonplaces about stage artists. Rather than irresponsible, capricious creatures, they are shown as hard-working and devoted, and production as a business where cost and income calculations often override considerations of art. At the same time, Maugham shows how expectations that they should lead a Bohemian life can affect even the most responsible and faithful actors.

Theatre is realistically written, fun, and interesting. If this is the first Maugham you are reading, I would choose Of Human Bondage; but if you have already done that, this is well worth adding to your library.

5-0 out of 5 stars A treat to read again
I read this novel years ago and had almost forgotten about it.I had certainly forgotten how vivid and distinct the characters are.Maugham is one of my favorite writers; as one of his short story characters said, I have a weakness for a story with a beginning, a middle and an end.This story has all three and a very satifying end at that.

4-0 out of 5 stars Revenge of theArtist:
"Theater" is my favorite W. Somerset Maugham's book. I have read it many times and remember it very vividly.

"Theater" is the story of Julia Lambert, the best and deservingly famous stage actress in England. On stage she is a true master of her craft, she is great in playing every possible human feeling and emotion. Off stage, however, she is not very happy with her handsome but not too bright husband; she does not have close relationship with her teenager son. At first, amused and touched by the adoration of a young fan, she eventually falls madly in love and lives through the real feelings and emotions that she was so great in playing on stage. How she deals with love, jealousy, anger, loneliness, aging - that's what "Theater" is about. She was able to take her revenge and punish her unfaithful lover, not only as a woman but what is more important, as an artist, and that was absolutely brilliant. Masterfully told story with delightful main character -talented, witty, charming, and very clever,"Theater" is an enjoyable, insightful, and honest portrait of a woman and an artist.


5-0 out of 5 stars don't miss this one!
Middle-aged woman, a star of the London theatre, beautiful, fulfilled. But she thinks that something is missing in her life and falls in love with a very young guy, who is mesmerized by her fame. Later the young lover meets a girl of his age and falls in love with her, leaving behind his older lover. The story is as old as this world. What makes it so different from other million love stories? THe talant of it's writer and the truly wonderful finale. Maugham was able to turn the whole thing upside down. And it's not one of those sticky-sweet novels, this one has a strong character, which makes it truly interesting to read.

2-0 out of 5 stars At its best, an Agatha Christie without the murder...
This is a novel so relentlessly slight that one proceeds through it with the constant expectation that the *actual* novel might at any moment begin. The whole thing (some 300 pages in my edition) reads like a set-up for something substantial, a story in which the characters here engaged- an actress named Julia; her actor-manager husband Michael; their accountant Tom; their son Roger; and a small cast of lesser (and entirely one-dimensional) figures, down to and including a caricature Cockney maid- have something of import or significance to do, say to one another, or perhaps think.The closest we get, alas, is a brief period of introspection on Julia's part, prompted by an out-of-left-field observation from son Roger, in which she considers that it is possible that her life does not merely center around her acting, but has in fact itself *become* acting.And there we are.

If there were any particular consequences to or results from the heroine's several romantic intrigues (which substitute for a plot); if there were more about acting as such, or about the theater world of London between the wars; if the dialogue were wittily engaging, or if the narration were somehow less pedestrian (one's finger never once itches for the highlighter)--if any of this were the case, one could see why "Theatre" deserved a place, if perhaps a marginal one, in Maugham's much-praised oeuvre.But they aren't, so the question hangs fire: if that sizable body of work (including 20 novels) inspires blurbs like the one on the back of my Russian-reprint (with typos aplenty) edition-"Maugham's keen and observant eye, subtle irony and brilliant style made his books extremely popular all over the world."-how did "Theatre" find its way into the mix?Cheez Whiz, talk about irony!It's hard to imagine a better summary-- keen observations, subtlety, irony and brilliance-of the elements *missing* from "Theatre."

Granted, there are some diverting moments here and there, and just enough competent storytelling to keep the reader from tossing "Theatre" aside after a hundred pages.But at its best the novel still leaves one suspecting, as developments so adamantly refuse to take place and significance successfully escapes at every turn, that one has somehow picked up an Agatha Christie novel which never gets to the murder.

Put otherwise, there is probably a good short story in here dying to get out. And that, in effect, may already have happened-only the short story has emerged as a screenplay.A movie based on "Theatre", called "Being Julia" and starring Annette Benning, is apparently scheduled for release in 2004.While I'm not racing to reserve tickets for opening night, I can see how Hollywood might feel that a nicely filmable star vehicle/character study might come out of this novel- and indeed, might have a much better chance for success in its genre than the original did on the printed page. ... Read more

2. The Razor's Edge
by W. Somerset Maugham
Paperback: 320 Pages (2003-09-09)
list price: US$15.00 -- used & new: US$8.23
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1400034205
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Product Description
Larry Darrell is a young American in search of the absolute. The progress of his spiritual odyssey involves him with some of Maugham's most brilliant characters - his fiancée Isabel whose choice between love and wealth have lifelong repercussions, and Elliott Templeton, her uncle, a classic expatriate American snob.  Maugham himself wanders in and out of the story, to observe his characters struggling with their fates. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (159)

5-0 out of 5 stars Thought Provoking and Awesome
Simply put this book is awesome and so very thought provoking...but there is nothing simple about the story, the characters and the amount of personal insight and wisdom one can take away from this brilliant work. So very J. Somerset Maugham and worth every penny as you will read it over and over.

5-0 out of 5 stars Inspiring
This book is quite inspiring because of the unconventional nature of the main character.It has stood the test of time as it takes place during WWI (and beyond)and it is contrasting materialism vs. minimalism.The book is the perfect length and because it is based on real life events of the characters involved, it is not wrapped up in a shiny bow at the end.It is about a man searching to find out, in a too simple summary, the meaning of life.He is a minimalist but he is not simplistic.He is inspiring because he is unconventional.I feel like it has an awesome message especially in this tumultuous time we are experiencing as a nation (and world).Because life has been uprooted for many people, this book may be the inspiration that you need.Enjoy

5-0 out of 5 stars I Could Relate To Larry
I remember that I read this book when I was 14, and it changed my life. Everything Larry did and everywhere Larry went, I wanted to do and I wanted to go. Thank God I didn't have a passport at this time, because I probably would've run away to India, or some other exotic country that I have only read about or seen in documentaries.

But long story short; This book, among others, is what has given me the courage to pursue my dreams in life, and to seek out truth; Instead of just following the perscribed order of things.

4-0 out of 5 stars Read this book and watch a vintage movie
I read this book as part of my book club.We choose classic reads once a year and The Razors Edge was our choice this year.It was a very popular book when it was written and still seems relevant even today.At times the dialog was mundane, but keeping in mind when this was written and the ease of the language at the time,I gave the author some grace for a simplistic story compared to today's stories of problems and complicated story-lines.

We watched the movie by the same title after reading the book and it was fun to see classic acting and some changes in the screen play.The movie portrayed Larry as a rather "hero" who was everything to everyone.However, I saw Larry as selfish and self-absorbed in the book.He never seemed to commit to anyone or anything.He was always searching for something newer or better.The book and movie was good for book club discussion, as was the life and writings of Somerset Maugham.He should be recognized for his contributions as a great american writer.

The last 10 pages of the book were the most important.In these pages Somerset Maugham seems to bring together the reason he choose to write this book about these characters.In the end, it is a book of how these people found what they were looking for and how that impacted their lives.Keeping this in mind while reading the beginning of the book will help the reader understand the direction of this writing style.Enjoy this light hearted read of traditional americans set in the early 20th century.

5-0 out of 5 stars Great Later Work
It is a testament to W. Somerset Maugham's talent that The Razor's Edge, one of his best works, came out when he was seventy, an age when even the greatest artists have nearly always lost almost all their skill. However, it not only has prior strengths in full force but even brilliantly displays new ones. It is essential for anyone interested in Maugham and highly recommended for general twentieth century literature fans.

One returning strength is the strong, deceptively simple prose perfected in Of Human Bondage. Maugham is one of the great English stylists; the rare writer who truly understands Jonathan Swift's definition of good style ("Proper words in proper places"), he always seems to know exactly what word to use and does not need more. The Razor's is a consummate example, packing a deeply philosophical, intercontinental story with a wide variety of characters into little more than three hundred pages. Another strength is vivid depiction of daily European life; Maugham focuses on the little details most authors ignore - food and drink, the minutia of physical appearance, etc. -, giving incredible verisimilitude. The novel is set largely in France, but we get a whirlwind tour of other countries; they seem to come alive in a truly rare way, and our vicarious enjoyment is as great as with any travel book. This is no less true - and perhaps more so - because unlike most writers, Maugham focuses on the low and gritty as much as the highbrow; his writing is very visceral, bringing out the best - and worst - of both.

There are also many new strengths. Quite remarkably considering that Maugham began publishing in the nineteenth century, the novel is in many ways truly Modern, not least in how he brilliantly inserts himself. His thinly-veiled Ashenden stories had of course done so, but here he is not only the first-person narrator and a major character but even uses his own name. Those interested in Maugham himself will thus be particularly fascinated, as how one puts oneself forth fictionally arguably says at least as much about one as a real self-portrait. We can see Ashenden remnants, but the character is essentially a writer - aging and cynical but still quick-witted and able to enjoy life while well aware of its tragedy. Such a thing is among the hardest for a writer to pull off, but he does it with aplomb. On top of this, he accomplishes the almost equally hard task of pretending the book is memoir rather than fiction. The opening confession, though fictional, is one of the most disarmingly brilliant ever, and similar asides are made throughout; this is the rare book that actually makes authorial intrusiveness an asset. I make a point of not reading back covers or introductions until after finishing the text for fear of something being given away, and all that need be said of Maugham's success is that I was not sure if this were indeed a novel until I looked. His accomplishment is particularly subtle and admirable in that the artifice was likely the only way of masking some improbable elements, such as the character of Larry, whom most will find too good to be true, and some of the things Maugham seems to reveal about himself. Yet, unless we knew before, the device is never obvious, much less distracting. As with so many of Maugham's works, though, there actually are significant autobiographical elements, and character models have been debated since publication. This complex fact/fiction interplay is truly Modern. Also relatively new for Maugham was using a cast composed almost entirely of Americans and setting a substantial part of the story in America. He is upfront about limitations so yet does it quite plausibly. The picturesque India portrait is even more enchanting - evidence of how skillfully Maugham worked his world travel into his fiction.

What really makes the book work for most people, though, are the characters. The cast is small but has some of Maugham's most memorable personages - his alter ego not least. Elliott, one of his greatest comic characters, supports Maugham's initially strange claim that The Razor's is mostly comedy. However, though we laugh at Elliott's truly absurd superficiality and childlike reaction to being snubbed, there is far more to him than it first seems. He has some truly noble - even admirable - qualities, and it would take a hard heart indeed not to feel for him toward the end; he is pathetic in all senses of the word. Isabel is another character with more angles than is first clear, as is Sophie, one of Maugham's truly tragic figures. Yet he is too intelligent to simply condemn her because she lacks all conventional morality. Much the same can after all be said of the calculatingly cynical Suzanne, but she ends up a great success by any standard, and it is hard not to admire her ability and perseverance whatever we think of her methods. Gray, the prototypical Regular Guy, throws all these into stark and sometimes comic contrast.

Then there is of course Larry, the character Maugham immediately says the book will be about though he mischievously delays revealing it or him. One of literature's most nuanced characters, Larry is absolutely fascinating; his essential mystery is of course much of the attraction, but so is his depth. He is many things:part Jesus, part Dostoevsky's Idiot, part Hemingway/Fitzgerald Lost Generation archetype, part proto-hippie. Larry is in many ways what makes the book, which begins just after World War I and ends just before World War II, epitomize its era. Things were changing greatly; all the idols that had sustained Western society for centuries - Christianity, capitalism, optimism, nationalism, insularity, materialism, faith in technology, etc. - seemed woefully inadequate. Like so many young men of his generation, Larry was unable to resume pre-war life. Scarred by death, guilt, and other feelings too convoluted to name, he becomes obsessed with finding meaning. Sadly, many could identify with his yearning, doubt, and malaise, and his search entails several well-worn paths. However, he was in many ways ahead of his time, anticipating the Dharma Bum soon glorified by the Beats and embracing the Eastern religion that Beats and hippies soon brought into vogue.

Maugham uses Larry to explore a wealth of important philosophical questions. The Razor's is in many ways a reverse Henry James novel, and Maugham indeed mentions James almost immediately. James was an American living in Europe writing about Americans in Europe; Maugham was a European living in America writing about the same. Like James, he usefully shows how this group - so numerous and important at the time, especially among artists and intellectuals - acts in numerous situations and interestingly contrasts Americans and Europeans. His most valuable insights, though, come from a piercing examination of America's twin pillars:capitalism and optimism. They got the country very far in an astonishingly short amount of time, but WWI badly damaged faith in them, and the Great Depression was near fatal. Thus, strange as Larry seems in some ways, he really only took to their logical conclusion impulses felt by nearly all Americans. Refusing to abide by the classic American formula of working hard at conventional jobs for upward mobility, he takes a very different path. Maugham knows better than to say if he is right and gives several contrasts:honest, hard-working businessmen; social climbers; mercenary women; and even professional whores. Only we can decide who is right. Maugham also makes notable comments on a variety of side issues, from marriage, sexuality, and male/female relations generally to high and low society. As elsewhere with him, there is also a strong homo/bisexual subtext that is getting more and more attention.

All told, Maugham packs an astounding amount of thought-provoking material into what is basically a short novel. Combined with amazing psychological insight, deft characterization, and a healthy dose of humor, this makes a truly great work. The Razor's does not equal Of Human but is excellent in all respects and has its own strengths; relative brevity may even make it a better introduction, and it should certainly be one of the first Maugham books anyone reads.
... Read more

3. Collected Stories (Everyman's Library)
by W. Somerset Maugham
Hardcover: 880 Pages (2004-07-06)
list price: US$26.00 -- used & new: US$16.35
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1400042534
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Product Description
(Book Jacket Status: Jacketed)

From one of the twentieth century’s most enduringly popular fiction writers: the only hardcover edition of his short stories.

Though W. Somerset Maugham was also famous for his novels and plays, it has been argued that in the short story he reached the pinnacle of his art. These expertly told tales, with their addictive plot twists and vividly drawn characters, are both galvanizing as literature and wonderfully entertaining. In the adventures of his alter ego Ashenden, a writer who (like Maugham himself) turned secret agent in World War I, as well as in stories set in such far-flung locales as South Pacific islands and colonial outposts in Southeast Asia, Maugham brings his characters vividly to life, and their humanity is more convincing for the author’s merciless exposure of their flaws and failures.

Whether the chasms of misunderstanding he plumbs are those between colonizers and natives, between a missionary and a prostitute, or between a poetry-writing woman and her uncomprehending husband, Maugham brilliantly displays his irony, his wit, and his genius in the art of storytelling. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (10)

5-0 out of 5 stars The model of consistency
W Somerset Maugham (1874-1965), English playwright, novelist, and short story writer, was one of the most famous writers in the first half of the twentieth century.Yet he's not one of the writers people now recognize most from that time.He is well known, for sure, but his stature seems to pale in comparison to other writers of that era, such as Faulkner, Joyce, and Woolf.I think this is because Maugham wrote in such a business-like fashion, without any frills, while his contemporaries were experimenting and creating what would become known as modernist literature.And even those who know him now usually connect him back to his most famous novels- Of Human Bondage, The Painted Veil, The Moon & Sixpence- more so than his short stories.But Maugham was a formidable short story writer, writing more than 120, 31 of which comprise this collection.

Maugham meticulously followed a daily writing schedule, and this consistency shows in his work.I've never read a collection- especially one of this length- that was so consistently entertaining.There is a rhythm that transcends the stories and makes 800+ pages fly by: he seems to churn great story after great story with ease.The stories are autobiographical and reflect the exciting life he led.Many are set in the Pacific Islands, Southeast Asia, or China, where Maugham traveled extensively in the 20's and 30's chronicling the lives of the Colonialist English.The last 200 pages of this collection contain a selection from The Ashendon Stories, about a writer-turned spy in WWI, which Maugham himself was.

Despite the plain style, there is lots of suspense in these stories.There's love and hate and murders to solve and affairs to uncover.Maugham is a keen observer of human nature.He's writing about real people from his travels, so often it seems as if Maugham's simply narrating what he sees when opposing forces are set in front of him.Not surprisingly, isolation is a big theme (and source of conflict) in the colonial stories.Some of the more poignant moments in his work are when Maugham shows the rituals they performed- like The Resident (term for the governor) in "The Outstation" who dressed formally every night for dinner, even while eating alone- to provide the illusion of their old life.And despite Maugham's seeming anti-Romanticism throughout many of the stories, the collection closes with "The Sanatorium", a story where love conquers even death.

This is a great collection and definitely worth the time.

5-0 out of 5 stars masterly short stories
The short story writer does not have time to mess around. He/she has to grip the reader's interest immediately, tell an engaging tale and finish with a punchy ending. Somerset Maugham had that rare gift and remains my favorite short story writer. In my opinion his only modern day equivalent is T. Coraghessan Boyle.

Although his works are not high literature and can be considered somewhat dated, they are finely crafted and expert at swiftly setting the scene and evoking atmosphere. Maugham obviously used his life experiences for written material; his travels in the (then) exotic orient, Ashenden's spy stories (he worked for the secret service during World war 2) and evocative society pieces.

This Everyman edition of many of his best stories is beautifully published-the print quality is exceptionally clear, the binding is luxurious and the paper quality is well above average. Given the standard of the writing and the product, this book is terrific value.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Story Doesn't Have to Change the World
I picked up this volume of stories because I'd heard that W Somerset Maugham was the true master of the short story form.I've read a lot of contemporary writers so I wanted to compare.I learned a lot from these stories.

The first thing I learned was subtlety.These stories weren't filled with action sequences or grand plots, but instead they were filled with intent and slow moving determination.He lets the story unfold in the actions of his characters and reveals their mind through words, action and narrative.At first I have to admit that I thought these stories boring and without purpose but then I reread the first stories and realized that every word had purpose and that purpose was the action - the beautiful subtle flowing action of the stories told so well that they seemed effortless and haunting at the same time.Then I was not bored.

The second thing I learned was theme.I don't know if Maugham consciously wrote to a theme or whether it developed organically, but however he did it the theme permeated each story with symbolism in elegance.There was this one story about an island's regent and his assistant.They didn't get along and eventually that tension built into ill intent, but the scenes were decorated with contrasting imagery - chaos interrupting serenity, just like the main characters.It works so well to put the reader in the mood for what's to come.It's kind of magical when you realize that it's working and it's intentional, manipulative even.

The third thing I learned is that a story doesn't have to change the world or reveal great secrets, but that changing a single person in one significant way is enough.It's enough and sometimes more than just enough for a story - sometimes it's perfect.

- CV Rick, May 2008

5-0 out of 5 stars "Maugham's the best!"
If you like Somerset Maughm stories, this book is perfect.It is a nice
assortment of his well-known and lesser known stories.You can pick it
up and read it at any time.A very satisfying book.

3-0 out of 5 stars GREAT WRITER, BUT VERY DATED
I recently learned about the author W. Somerset Maugham while reading a review of another book on Amazon.com.I enjoy reading short stories.One of my favorite short story writers is Guy de Maupassant. While reading the forward in this book the author writes about his writing style and howGuy de Maupasssant influenced his style of writing.I looked forward to reading the stories even more after reading the forward.

I told my Dad (aged 77) I was reading the book, and he wondered if I read the story Rain. He had enjoyed reading the story very much when he was younger. At that point I had not read the story Rain.After reading the story I could see why it was popular several decades ago, since it probably shocked many people.I found the story Rain and other stories by the author very predictable and dated in the year 2007.

I notice that in many of the stories W. S Maugham writes about prostitutes and other topics that would not be allowed in a high school setting. I believe that is why many people have not heard of the author. The most famous short stories in the book are Rain and the Fall of Edward Barnard, which you must read.Many of the stories written by the author have become movies such as Rain.Recently a movie came out titled The Painted Veil based on a novel by the author.I am presently reading it and hope I enjoy it. ... Read more

4. The Land of The Blessed Virgin; Sketches and Impressions in Andalusia
by W. Somerset (William Somerset) Maugham
Paperback: 118 Pages (2010-07-06)
list price: US$9.99 -- used & new: US$9.99
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: B003YMMPEK
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Product Description
The Land of The Blessed Virgin; Sketches and Impressions in Andalusia is presented here in a high quality paperback edition. This popular classic work by W. Somerset (William Somerset) Maugham is in the English language. If you enjoy the works of W. Somerset (William Somerset) Maugham then we highly recommend this publication for your book collection. ... Read more

5. A Writer's Notebook (Vintage International)
by W. Somerset Maugham
Paperback: 384 Pages (2009-12-01)
list price: US$16.00 -- used & new: US$9.13
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0307473198
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
Filled with keen observations, autobiographical notes, and the seeds of many of Maugham's greatest works, A Writer's Notebook is a unique and exhilarating look into a great writer's mind at work.
From nearly five decades, Somerset Maugham recorded an intimate journal. In it we see the budding of his incomparable vision and his remarkable career as a writer. Covering the years from his time as a youthful medical student in London to a seasoned world traveler around the world, it is playful, sharp witted, and always revealing. Undoubtedly one of his most significant works, A Writer's Notebook is a must for Maugham fans and anyone interested in the creative process. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (2)

5-0 out of 5 stars Book of Wisdon
I've read most of Somerset Maugham's writings & far from being one of the foremost of the 2nd rate authors ( as he himself termed it ) I consider him to be one of the foremost of all writers. It is possible to re - read Maugham's stories a number of times & get more from them on each reading. His stories are always beautifully written, have a beginning a middle & an end & always have a point. A writers notebook has more wisdom within it's pages than any other book I have read. I first read it perhaps 30yrs back & it has greatly influenced my views on life & it is great that a publisher has re - issued it as I had lost my copy many years back & until recently had not been able to locate a copy for sale other than those on the vintage market.

5-0 out of 5 stars Gems from a Master
This quasi-journal of Maugham's thoughts, travels, philosophies and bits of literature is facinating on several levels. For an avid Maugham fan, you can see the germination of the ideas and the travels that became his novels. The charming, brilliant and matter-of-fact way in which Maugham says startling things about life will have you underlining passages throughout the work. ... Read more

6. Cakes and Ale
by W. Somerset Maugham
Paperback: 320 Pages (2000-12-05)
list price: US$14.95 -- used & new: US$7.99
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0375725024
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Product Description
Cakes and Ale is a delicious satire of London literary society between the Wars. Social climber Alroy Kear is flattered when he is selected by Edward Driffield's wife to pen the official biography of her lionized novelist husband, and determined to write a bestseller. But then Kear discovers the great novelist's voluptuous muse (and unlikely first wife), Rosie. The lively, loving heroine once gave Driffield enough material to last a lifetime, but now her memory casts an embarrissing shadow over his career and respectable image.  Wise, witty, deeply satisfying, Cakes and Ale is Maugham at his best. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (22)

1-0 out of 5 stars jaded, dated, class-ridden pap

I have read reviews of a new biography of Somerset Maugham out this summer, which describes how he became one of the most successful authors of his day, but whose fame faded to the point where he is almost unread today.So instead of buying the biography, I thought I'd try one of his books. I had seen the movie version of the Painted Veil, and thought it excellent;however Cakes and Ale was written in the first person, and this interests me too, so I tried it.
Yugghhh,the story line is fanciful; the characters barely credible.The major impression made here was the obsession with the British class system - inparticular the fact that it persists underneath a veneer of denial by all parties that it does exist ; this kind of thing "Lady Hodmarsh and the duchess immediately assumed the cringing affability that persons of rank assume with their inferiors in order to show them that they are not in the least conscious of any difference in station between them" .There is also a subplot about rival authors trying to write a biography of an elderly successful author - which was controversial in the 1930s when the novel was published, as it was said there were inferences about Thomas Hardy.Writers writing about writing, plus the British class system.
However I did finish the book, so its not one to be hurled away. Just be warned.

5-0 out of 5 stars Great Book
Wonderful book - and it was special to get an old gently used hard cover in small format.It added to the old world feel.

4-0 out of 5 stars A delightful story told in flashback, and lots of gay content, if you know to look for it
The book group at the LGBT Center in NYC discussed this book in April 2010.

Everyone liked this book and a couple of us thought that it was great. It's definitely fun and, ultimately, moving. While there's no explicitly gay content in the novel, we generally agreed that the narrator (who remains unmarried throughout his life) is gay, as are a number of other characters (including Alroy Kear, with whom the narrator "had been intimate" in the past - but grown apart; Lord Scallion, who finds brunch "too divine;" and the hiking American tourists).

In most first person novels, the narrator is the center of the action, but in this case, it's the delightful Rosie, the former barmaid who marries the eminent Victorian author, Edward Driffield, and whose good-natured gregarious behavior (and affairs!) the second Mrs. Driffield tries to hide. Told in flashbacks, we learn more and more about the narrator, Rosie, the second Mrs. Driffield, and her ass-kissing followers (who have to work very hard to maintain Mr. Driffield's reputation after his second marriage to the stodgy wife). The final chapters revel more about Rosie and her husband, as well as the crucial role that the narrator played in their lives, so that the novel ends on an exhilarating note.

For some of us, it was hard to understand the English class system, the snotty behavior by some people (including the maid), the satire about the late Victorian literary society, and the outrage that a realistic novel caused. A few of the characters and events seemed to be in place only to make satiric points, and seemed unnecessary. Some of the readers said this is not the best Maugham, but it seemed like a great introduction to me. (Be sure to read Maugham's biography in Wikipedia for some real dirt about this author.)

5-0 out of 5 stars Cakes for Some Ale for the Rest
Somerset Maugham has made a career of exploring the role of the troubled artist in society.In CAKES AND ALE, as in MOON AND SIXPENCE, he dissects a society with a literary scalpel merely to expose the wriggling corpse of the artist/prophet on the slide known as the novel.Here his focus is on two novelists.The first is the narrator Ashendon (Maugham himself) who is not the primary character.He rather reports theevents over a period of many decades, beginning as a callow youth and ending as a mature doctor/novelist whose success in the latter is less than in the former.The second is Edward Driffield (Thomas Hardy), a writer who has achieved success despite his talent rather than because of it.Maugham goes to great lengths to emphasize that no one, least of all Driffield himself, can explain his eventual rousing acceptance as a literary lion.The best that anyone can do is to imply that becoming a successful writer is nothing more complex than hanging around long enough to convince a fickle public that here is a novelist worthy of the tag of greatness.

Much is made of the novel's pointed satire.Since Maugham as Ashendon was a novelist, it followed (at least to him) that there were rules for advancement.Driffield was just as astonished as anyone at his success.Ashendon could apprehend on a surface level that longevity was surely the key but on a deeper visceral level, he simply could not buy into what the fickle public demanded: that any best-selling author must be ready at any moment to be savaged by dunder-headed critics who could pick apart his latest novel.Maugham is great at name-dropping, or rather job-title dropping.His book is replete with constant reference to meetings, lunches, and soirees with critics, interviewers, and agents, none of whom is the least qualified to spot true genius but all of whom are sure that they have their fingers on the pulse of what passes for literary acclaim by a public that reads the best seller list as assiduously as it does the best sellers on it.Yet, CAKES AND ALE is more than just one author in search of his Muse.Over the decades that Ashendon pursues the Truth About Writing, the figure of Rosie Driffield floats like an interlinking blanket.It is she who appears at convenient moments throughout, first interesting Ashendon to pursue a literary career, then later interesting him in having an affair.We know precious little about Ashendon, about Driffield, or anyone else save her.They are all flat and static.Rosie is a lightning bolt of reality mixed with raw sensuality. She loves men with a fierce abandon and does not confuse the pleasures of the body with those of the soul.She knows the difference as surely as she does the inner reason why her husband's books sell and why other writers' works do not. But for her, success is limited.She requires a man who can supply her the basics of a successful life.When along comes another who can add to the pot, she couples with him fiercely, never complaining, but always counting.She knows what she is and never regrets any of her decisions.When we first meet her, she is a beauty, but one that Ashendon can't appreciate.She seduces him.Later he finds out that he is merely one of a stable of diversions.Her response? "Take me as I am," she retorts.And so he does, from decade to decade.What he does learn is that of all the characters in the book it is only she who has remained true to her vision of self.She may suffer as a result of her choices but she evinces not a smidgeon of regret.When readers today analyze CAKES AND ALE, they begin by noting the biting satire, but they always finish with Rosie and her vision of self.

5-0 out of 5 stars Fascinating - and funny!
Further to the other excellent reviews here, I'd just like to add my two pennorth. I tried Maugham when in my twenties, but couldn't get into it at all. Now, 20 years on, I am just loving his writing, there is a quiet and subtle humour there that I'd almost completely missed the first time round. As well as painting a fascinating picture of the sheer stuffiness and rigidity of British class society from yesteryear, it's also just funny. I laughed out loud many times reading this book. It's a wonderful piece of writing. ... Read more

7. The Moon & Sixpence
by W. Somerset Maugham
 Hardcover: 384 Pages (1993-02)
list price: US$26.00 -- used & new: US$26.00
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Asin: 0939495783
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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5-0 out of 5 stars A fascinating tale about human nature
The work of British author Somerset Maugham (1874-1965), this is a supremely interesting book which explores the intricacies of the human mind through the story of man's sudden and improbable obsession with art.Based on the life of post-impressionist painter Paul Gauguin and set in locations as diverse as seedier sections of Paris and the tropical splendor of Tahiti, it deals with the inexplicable urge which seemingly at random strikes some of us and leads them to leave everything and everyone they know in order to dedicate their lives to a purpose, be it religion, the love of another, art or infinite other things, which those around them little understand and often disdain.Maugham's masterfully crafted prose is an added treat.This is a must-read which will spiritually enrich anyone who peruses it. ... Read more

8. The Complete Short Stories of W. Somerset Maugham
by W. Somerset Maugham
Hardcover: Pages (1953)
-- used & new: US$74.98
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Asin: B000852UR8
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Customer Reviews (3)

5-0 out of 5 stars A Gold Standard of 20th Century Short Stories and Novella
Only H.H. Munro (Saki)can genuinely compete with Maugham in the construction of finely constructed short stories. Despite the half century between the appearance of their writings they both dissected English society unmercifully and accurately; not to mention often with humor and oblique kindness. Maugham went further and eviscerated the human race in general. I have read this collection of stories many times over and continue to admire Maugham's skill. If you believe in the power of the short story you need this collection. My edition also includes stories long enough to be called Novella. There is no diminution of skill and acidic venom aimed at worldwide fools in these creations either. It is a regret of mine that I did not read the Ashenden stories of Maugham before Ian Fleming cast a bond (sic) upon my juvenile imagination. As for Saki, he and Roald Dahl would have either respected or hated each other as workers at the same mill or competitors for some bizarre literary crown.

5-0 out of 5 stars How the flesh is weak
In few pages as usual, the great master of short stories, W. Sommerset MAUGHAN, settel up an astonishing story which should be read by all missonaries in the world. Only then, the uselessness of their doctrinal and ideological work, fully devoted to an abstration, could appear to them and save them. Odd enough, the author underlines that the joy of the body is far from being a sin and those who live far that joy would perish from lack of it. All priest's work is linked to devil and the dead od Davidson is a mere denial of all his life. The Rain, which give the title to the story is perceived as the real divinity upon the lava-lava natives of Honolulu, a hymn of life which contrasts to the missionary's thoughts of christianity, a hymn of death and destruction of all living creatures. The end of the story is beyond all that could be expected and I won't tell you..

5-0 out of 5 stars The Best Short Stories Ever
Somerset Maugham wrote the most readable, well-plotted, exotic, and interesting short stories of any writer I have ever read. He is frequently described with faint praise as being "competent." Well, if you want formless sketches of the deeper wells of human experience, Maugham may not be your cup of tea. But if you like good stories, often with an trick ending, he's as good as you will find. As a writer for magazines, Maugham understood that he had to get the reader interested in his story quickly, and he does so.Once you get a paragraph or two into a Maugham story, you are hooked.

Volume one of this handsome set is titled "East and West."It consists of 30 short stories written between 1919 and 1930. Volume Two, titled "The World Over" has 61 stories, some of them only brief sketches. Most of the stories have the exotic settings Maugham is famous for: the South Pacific, China, and Southeast Asia.Many of them deal with the British and other Westerners interacting with the Orient and Orientals. The best known and representative is "Rain" in which a missionary takes on the task of reforming a prostitute. A few spy stories, reflecting Maugham's experience in World War I, and tales of the occult are mixed in with the tales of the Orient.It is difficult to single out the best Maugham stories because he is so consistently good.

Maugham pushed the envelope in his day writing of infidelity, inter-racial romance, and incest. In one of his stories "The Treasure" a very proper London gentleman beds his very proper housekeeper with consequences that illustrate English reserve and class distinctions as well as could any scholarly treatise.Maugham is cynical, sarcastic, world weary, and a bit macabre in dissecting society and uncovering seamy, shocking facts about "normal" people.

Not the least of the attractions of these books are the introductions written by Maugham in which he sets out his theories of literature and indulges himself with some biting remarks about his critics.Mr. Maugham was not a very nice man, but he was a great writer of short stories.

Smallchief ... Read more

9. Collected Short Stories: Volume 4 (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics)
by W. SomersetMaugham
Paperback: 464 Pages (1993-03-01)
list price: US$18.00 -- used & new: US$10.17
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0140185925
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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The stories in this collection move from Malaya to America and England, and include some of Maugham's most famous tales; 'Flotsam and Jetsam', the story of an old woman trapped for years in a loveless marriage in the remote rubber plantations; 'The Man with the Scar', and notably the opening story 'The Vessel of Wrath', a tale of the unexpected love that grows between a devout missionary nurse and a drunken reprobate. In this second volume of his collected stories, Maugham illustrates his characteristic wry perception of human foibles and his genius for evoking compelling drama from an acute sense of time and place. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (18)

4-0 out of 5 stars Fine stories, awful book printing
I've loved Maugham's writing since I happened upon "Of Human Bondage" years ago in a resale shop.This collection of short stories is no different -- simply beautiful writing and very human stories.

On the other hand, the printing of this particular edition is horrible.The text is oversaturated so that each letter is horribly spread out and fat; very distracting to read.I'm happy with the writing, very disappointed with the quality of the printing.

Five stars for writing -- zero stars for the printing.

5-0 out of 5 stars "Be happy, happy, happy"
Life's too short, as we learn in Somerset Maugham, to live it compromised by ugly feeling or jealousy, and it's also too short to read all of his stories of the South Seas collected in this Volume 4 of his Collected Short Stories.(Apparently through some quirk of Amazon, reviews of any of the four volumes of his collected are given here under Volume 4, and probably under each volume too.Oh well, maybe it makes sense, but I notice that practically every other review here is for Volume 1 which must have all the anthology pieces in it.)Here I really liked two stories, The Book Bag and P & O.It's true what they say, his stories are told simply and seem like they're going to be bor-r-r-i-i-n-n-g, but by page two or three you're hooked.

"The Book-Bag" is one of the most daring, since it brings up the topic of brother-sister incest.The narrator has little luggage but as if to make up for it carries around with him an enormous book-bag, like Santa's sack, and the native porters transporting it on his many island hops, curse him mightily.In Tenggarah, in Malaya, the Narrator gets out and engages a resident called Mark Featherstone and the two of them play cards at the club and drink and talk about Byron and his supposed affair with Augusta, his sister.One man leaves his cards spilled across the floor and stumbles out, and the narrator realizes, oops, I've put my foot in my mouth.He then gets to hear the story of a sister so far gone on her brother that, when he leaves her to return to England on a brief trip, goes a little nuts.I won't say what happens because it's too intense!But here Maugham approaches a Racinean intensity of sexual feeling that still leaves you seared.

In "P & O" the focus is on Mrs. Hamlyn, on her way home back to England from Yokohama, where her husband has abruptly abandoned her, not for a young flapper which might be excusable, but for a middle aged woman even older than she!Mrs. Hamlyn is hurt and bewildered, and her emotions shut down so she feels nothing.At Malaya the ship stops to pick up cargo and passengers, among them a simple Irishman called Gallagher, who soon becomes sick on the voyage--sick with hiccups.Maugham was a M.D. himself and could really work up a case of hiccups into something disastrous, and before long Gallagher is near death.The story is really all about (as I began writing) life being too short for regret."We live to be happy so short a time and we are so long dead."Mrs. Hamlyn's emotional journey is at the core of Maugham's story, but there are tremendous chills and thrills from following what apparently is a simple case of hiccuping but which soon turns into something far more sinister and chilling.Yes, this book is filled with so-called Orientalism, the mysterious ways of the East always painted as too arcane for white men to understand (or too primitive, exactly the opposite fault from the over-elaboration that Asians are elsewhere accused of).But in some stories, you really do feel the sense of culture shock when two worlds collide, each with its own set of learned responses, no world essentially any better than the other.

5-0 out of 5 stars Each one a Gem
As a writer, Maugham considered himself "on the first row of the secondraters".I think he was being modest.Maugham has written some of the finest short stories ever written.His purpose was to do no more than tell an interesting story, but the reader gets much more. Each story isperfectly told; not one word is wasted, each character is fully realized.Maugham observes and never judges his characters. His short stories can be read many times and with each reading the reader finds something new and interesting.Somerset Maugham's short stories takes the reader to a time that is now past but still very relevant.

5-0 out of 5 stars Great
Somerset is an amazing writer whose words flowed so freely and expressively it makes you want to cry.This book of shorts is classic Maugham and un-put-downable.You'll love it.

4-0 out of 5 stars Fall or accomplishment ?
The story" Fall of Edward Barnard" is a confrontation between what is called'the Civilized World' and the indigenous, the savage, the primitive world. Edward, thankful to a relative already fascinated by the beauties of the islands around tahiti, had a one life opportunity to have a very introspective reflexion about the meaning of his life. Sent from Chicago for two years, he will delay his return and the promise he made to his bride Isabelle. Why ? Because facing the natural beauty, almost thunderstruck by such simplicity, he wonders what the use of all this hustle and constant striving in our cities which are all but stones with ceasless turmoil. After a unsuccessful beginning in working, he chose a simple life based on beauty, truth and goodness. His thoughts reach the universal when asking himself ( throughout the author's philosophy )why do we come into the world for to hurry to an office and work hour after hour ... Read more

10. The Painted Veil
by W. Somerset Maugham
Paperback: 256 Pages (2006-11-14)
list price: US$14.95 -- used & new: US$5.98
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0307277771
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Set in England and Hong Kong in the 1920s, The Painted Veil is the story of the beautiful but love-starved Kitty Fane. When her husband discovers her adulterous affair, he forces her to accompany him to the heart of a cholera epidemic. Stripped of the British society of her youth and the small but effective society she fought so hard to attain in Hong Kong, she is compelled by her awakening conscience to reassess her life and learn how to love.

The Painted Veil is a beautifully written affirmation of the human capacity to grow, to change, and to forgive. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (58)

3-0 out of 5 stars First Maugham Book I Haven't Really Liked
Just finished this book the other day.On a bit of a Maugham tear - read "The Razor's Edge" and "Of Human Bondage" over the last week or so and started on "Cakes and Ale" yesterday.I should say I'm rereading these other books after a decade or so.But somehow had missed "The Painted Veil" until now.

I, like several other reviewers, was put off by Kitty's jumping into bed with Charles the minute she returns from her life-altering experiences up in the cholera-stricken area.It was hard to believe.Or, if she did take up the old relationship, it would've made a better story for her to continue and fall right back into her old ways.That would've been a cynical and disturbing storyline, but powerful.

I also didn't like the way story just sort of fizzles out with her taking off to Bermuda with her weak, foolish father.Perhaps it was something that actually happened to some acquaintance of Maugham's?Truth stranger than fiction sort of thing?

Waddington is a great character and a breath of fresh air.The Mother Superior was a bit much, I thought.Embarrassing stuff about her aristocratic blood poring out of every pore.Yawn.The jolly Sister - I forget her name already - was entertaining.

I didn't know a film had recently been made of the book.Hence the large number of reviews.A laugh to me that people would come to Maugham via some dopey film.I can't imagine the number of copies of the book that were bought and never finished.

Walter hard to believe.A fart in a bottle turned psycho.

What else?The mysticism was a bit much.Again, I think it would've been better if Kitty had just returned to her old ways.Perhaps she should have miscarried and stayed out East on her pension and bonked half the guys in HK, or something.People don't change unless they become insane, and if she was such a fool at 25 she would've died one.After all, her parents are both awful - what are the chances she wouldn't be?DNA and all...

Three stars 'cause it's Maugham with his excellent tone.Not his best novel, though.

5-0 out of 5 stars Touching Tale
A touching tale of love (or false love) and betrayal (adultery). The principal character, Kitty is flawed but grows in the story. We experience her revelations and development, and that is main-spring of this tale set in Hong Kong and China. It is all very credible. Maugham is simple and persuasive with his characters and narrative. There are no tricks or unnecessary meanderings.

Maugham is the consummate story-teller. Story-telling, I feel has become a forgotten art and is becoming under-rated. Somerset Maugham has survived. Other authors peaked during his lifetime, but are becoming forgotten (like James Joyce or William Faulkner); except by esoteric college professors. Maugham has out-lasted many of his contemporaries.

3-0 out of 5 stars The Painted Veil

I'm not sure what to think of this book.It's definitely a masterful telling of growth and sorrow, but despite that I didn't feel connected with the novel.The characters are hard to like even though they are only doing what is in their nature.

Kitty is a silly foolish girl interested only in frivolity and parties.She is not all to blame, her mother has made her this way in hoping that she'd make a good match for marriage.However, time flies by and soon Kitty finds herself a spinster at twenty-five, not having made a suitable match.The same is not said for her younger sister who, although not as pretty, is getting ready to marry a very notable man.Desperate not to be left behind, Kitty agrees to marry Walter, a doctor who is returning to China where his work as a bacteriologist is.

After two years with him though, Kitty has discovered that they have nothing in common and does not love him at all or could even begin to.During her time she has found a lover, whom she has fantasies that she can run off and be with him forever.Her hopes are dashed though when they are finally caught by Walter and he gives her two choices.Come with him to a cholera infected area of China, or convince her lover to marry her and divorce his wife.She asks her lover and receives an unexpected answer that forces her to go with Walter in the face of certain death by cholera.It is here however, that she begins to learn and change and try to make herself a better person.The only thing holding her back is the lack of Walter's forgiveness.

Kitty is definitely not a like-able character.I don't care that she does work towards becoming a better character as she cannot be consistent with it.I realize it is human nature to do the best for yourself and take the easy route, but she does it quite a bit and I find it hard to sympathize with her.I also don't feel any pity for Walter, her husband.He wasn't a very strong person and in addition to that he just has very strange mannerisms that seem unlikely in a doctor.He would have had trouble going through medical school with some of his social issues.

The writing was ok.There was some description but it wasn't written very interestingly.It was in the 3rd person and mainly followed Kitty and all her day to day proceedings.Maugham does great dialogue, but he didn't do as well with making a connection to his characters in my opinion.At times I found myself skimming through some boring parts of the book hoping something would happen.

This could probably be considered a classic.But that to me doesn't automatically make a book excellent.I thought this one was average, not fantastic but not poor either.

The Painted Veil
Copyright 1925
246 pages

Review by M. Reynard 2010

5-0 out of 5 stars "There is only one way to win hearts and that is to make oneself like unto those of whom one would be loved,"
advises one of the handful of colorful characters (the Mother Superior) in this story of a formerly foolish young lady's transformation into a woman of substance.

The story starts with the author inserting the reader smack dab in the middle of the room where its adulterers, a 27-year-old married woman named Kitty Fane and her also married lover 41-year-old Charles Townsend, are secretly rendezvousing. Behind the locked door of her bedroom, they concernedly contemplate the identity of he or she who just tried to turn the doorknob. Was it her bacteriologist husband, Dr. Walter Fane, or simply a servant? Maugham's character descriptions are pointedly perfect. Kitty's mother is a, (p 19) "hard, cruel, managing, ambitious, parsimonious, and stupid woman." Kitty thinks of Walter as (p 37) "a restrained, cold, and self-possessed man" who "loved her madly," and Charles as (p 38) "tall and handsome." During their first meeting, Charles flatters her by stating she's a "a raging beauty."

When Walter finds out, he confronts his wife, giving her two choices, one which the answer to will show her lovers' true colors, the other which will test her mettle. She takes the semi-suicidal route: agreeing to accompany him to Mei-tan-fu amidst a cholera epidemic. There they meet several interesting characters, including: Waddington, who, not knowing about the adulterous relationship, provides some eye-opening information about Charles and insightful comments about the Fane's marriage. The convent's Mother Superior, who, respectful and appreciative of Dr. Fane's efforts against the epidemic, helps his wife see his goodness. Of course, some sad stuff has to happen to help Kitty gain proper perspective on the men in her life.

Worst of the book is the negative portrayal of the Chinese, best: super short chapters, great character development, and wonderful imagery. Here's one of my favorites (p 133): "The sky was unclouded and the early sun shed a heavenly mildness on the scene; it was difficult to imagine, on that blithe, fresh, and smiling morn, that the city lay gasping, like a man whose life is being throttled out of him by a maniac's hands, in the dark clutch of the pestilence. It was incredible that nature (the blue of the sky was clear like a child's heart) should be so indifferent when men were writhing in agony and going to their death in fear." The Painted Veil is a short, stellar story about a woman's transformation in the face of tragedy. Also good: Silas Marner by George Eliot, The Wings of the Dove by Henry James, and Reservation Road by Richard Yates.

5-0 out of 5 stars Perfect
I, like many others, saw the movie first (I am a huge Edward Norton fan!).I have come to learn that when I see a movie first that when I pick up the book I have to look at the book as it is completely separate from the movie, and infact is not tied to the movie at all - this is the only way I am able to give a book a fighting chance.That being said, I loved this book (and the movie too).It was actually nice to envision the actors from the movie, in terms of physical looks, while reading the book.

Kitty is spoiled rotten, having a life of great privileged.Kitty also prides herself as being very independent, especially from her mother's 'demands' and 'disappointments' that she is not married yet.To get away from her 'overbearing' mother (at least overbearing in Kitty's opinion) she marries Walter Fane, who she does not love and barely likes.Upon their marriage they move straight to China as Walter's work as a scientist is.Bored in China, Kitty meets Charles Townsend, a politician; soon they start a torid love affair!Despite Kitty's new found happiness, Walter finds out.In an attempt to tear Kitty away from Charles Townsend, he uproots them to the center of a Cholera epidemic.Bitter against Walter, Kitty finds her new life unbearable.However, in time she is able to see another side of Walter as he works to save the town's infested water supply and many lives.

I would not say that this is a book about a love affair (as Kitty and Charles Townsend have), but more of self discover, as Kitty finds who she is and what she is capable of bearing.All the characters are very well written. I loved and hated Kitty all at the same time; I felt sorry for Walter; and I hated and like Charles Townsend. The plot unfolds expectantly, as W. Somerset Maugham makes you as in the end:"What and who is really important to us and in life?"You come away from this book with a better understanding of why humans do the things they do. I walked away from this book satisfied as it did not end in the typical way that most books do. There is a happy ending, but at the same time there is not a happy ending; something this book shows both sides of very well. ... Read more

11. Up at the Villa
by W. Somerset Maugham, Somerset Maugham
Paperback: 224 Pages (2000-04-04)
list price: US$13.95 -- used & new: US$3.59
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0375724621
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Now a major motion picture from USA Films starring Kristin Scott Thomas and Sean Penn, and director Philip Haas (director of Angels and Insects).

In Up at the Villa, W. Somerset Maugham portrays a wealthy young English woman who finds herself confronted rather brutally by the repercussions of whimsy.

On the day her older and prosperous friend asks her to marry him, Mary Leonard demurs and decides to postpone her reply a few days.But driving into the hills above Florence alone that evening, Mary offers a ride to a handsome stranger.And suddenly, her life is utterly, irrevocably altered.

For this stranger is a refugee of war, and he harbors more than one form of passion.Before morning, Mary will witness bloodshed, she will be forced to seek advice and assistance from an unsavory man, and she will have to face the truth about her own yearnings.Erotic, haunting, and maddeningly suspenseful, Up at the Villa is a masterful tale of temptation and the capricious nature of fate. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (12)

3-0 out of 5 stars Good story, but not a great book
I know a lot of people who liked this book and think Somerset Maugham is a great writer and who am I to judge, but I found reading some of the sentences awful. As another reviewer commented on the "economy of language", I felt words were deliberately dropped to get the shortest sentence possible and then some sentences were 5th grade level: "Mary drove through the silent streets of Florence, along the road by which she had come, then up the hill..." (big yawn)Lastly, it seemed to me as you were reading, the subject matter just simply changed in the next sentence. Perhaps this is how they wrote back then, in the late 1930's. I have read Maugham's "Of Human Bondage" and thought it quite good.

I was also disappointed with the description of Florence. Maugham gives you a tiny flavor and description of this beautiful Italian city. This is my own flaw and assumptions. I bought the book because it took place in Florence and at a villa. So I readily admit, I had some preconceived ideas that didn't pan out. I think only fair I explain as one reads my personal review here.

I wouldn't call it `another beautiful work of art'. A good story of a crime committed and perpetrator(s) gets away with it. I would call it a suspense novel. It is indeed a quick read. The story itself is good in the fact you have "some" wrestling with a moral dilemma issues, and personally, I do not think Maugham's character, Mary, did much wrestling.Mostly, we see her struggling with her guilt, and rightly so, though it seems quickly disposed of. There was no crime to begin with, only embarrassment. How many of us would act the way Mary did? I dare say not many. And who could live with the guilt of what you did? I think most people of good character, which Mary is reported to be, would be haunted by this desperate act, and therefore it wouldn't get as far as Mary allowed it. Despite other reviewers, this is not a romance. Mary does indeed do a kindness and could be considered a romantic gesture - but it ends abruptly and the moral dilemma begins.There are some very good lines in the book that are clever and thoughtful. It is a book worth reading. It is just not my kind of story.

5-0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written novella
This is the story of a young widow and three men, a respectable older gentlement who wants to marry her, a poor violin playing refugee, and a sexy rogue with a bad reputation.A brief affair and a death reveal the complexities of these four people.This is a beautifully crafted story.

4-0 out of 5 stars Dramatic Novella from a master story teller
There is no writer who captures the haugtiness of Edwardian upper class culture better than Maugham and in many of his writings dramatic tension derives from cultural and class contrasts between upper class English expatriots and the local people that they become involved with.
Here the protaganist is a young unmarried and very attractive woman staying in Florence at a friends Villa who draws attention from all of the men she encounters. One of the encounters results in a tragedy and the event and it's aftermath drives the story to it's quick conclusion.
Maugham writes dialogue that is quick, witty and obviously adaptable to the stage or screen since he was primarily known as a playwrite as well as a novelist.This short work is no exception.
The action proceeds quickly and this makes Up At The Villa a short but very satisfying book to read.

3-0 out of 5 stars A snapshot of Maugham's genius
As short as Of Human Bondage is long and as prosaic as The Razor's Edge is profound, Up at the Villa fails to inspire the way these aforementioned works of genius or other such timeless tomes as Cakes and Ale or Moon and Sixpence.

This book, however, was not all bad.It was eminently enjoyable and, as all of Maugham's efforts, was a pleasure to read.Maugham's gift with the English language is unsurpassed and vastly underrated.Unfortunately, Up at the Villa just didn't have enough Maugham.Not enough characterization or plot or theme development as I would have liked and have grown accustomed to with the genius of Maugham.I have yet to see the movie with Kristin Scott Thomas and Sean Penn, although I'm sure I will in due time.Overall, if you thoroughly enjoy Maugham as I do, check it out at the library.

"That's what life's for - to take risks."
- Rowley to Mary

5-0 out of 5 stars Short and Sublime
Under the rubric of "Praise for William Somerset Maugham" on the first page of "Up at the Villa," none other than the New York Times calls this book "full of psychological and dramatic potentialities." To a large extent, this comment has merit. Maugham was nothing if not a writer full of dramatic flair, economy of language, and a penetrating psychical gift that enabled him to peer deep into the inner machinations of the human soul in all of its various splendors. His "The Razor's Edge" was, in my opinion, one of the best books written in the last century. "Up at the Villa" is another beautiful work of art; it contains all of the recognizable Maugham hallmarks but displays them in a short novella. It's entirely possible to read "Up at the Villa" in a couple of hours if one is so inclined. The first thing I noticed with this book was how little time it took for the author to completely grab my attention. Within a few pages, my enthrallment with the character of Mary Panton was complete.

"Up at the Villa" takes place in Florence, Italy shortly before WWII breaks out. A thriving colony of British expatriates spends each day and night basking in the warmth of the climate and attending endless parties where they reinforce each other's social position. The main character is Mary Panton, a young widow drifting into her early thirties without a concrete sense of direction. There is a lot of pressure for Mary to marry again, as her ravishing beauty draws all sorts of suitors out of the woodwork. One of the men who wishes to corral Mary is Edgar Swift, a distinguished British diplomat and old family friend who now hopes to take Mary with him to a new appointment as Governor of Bengal. One of Edgar's competitors is Rowley Flint, a dissolute bloke with money to burn and a fierce reputation as a ladies man. Mary's indifference to these men is apparent from the start; she considers Edgar's proposal only because of his social position. As for Rowley, she hardly considers him at all. Mary's beauty always brings her much attention, but it also brings out her strident vanity. When Mary meets a young Austrian exile by the name of Karl Richter, her beauty causes all sorts of problems, one of which could result in a legal entanglement of scandalous proportions.

There are more moral quandaries in this novella than in the entire Old Testament. Not only does Mary need to decide whom she should marry, she must deal with the emotional fallout of a personal calamity brought about by her overweening sense of self. Maugham masterfully moves the reader through the treacherous pitfalls of Mary's Florence experiences, and he does it in astonishingly few words. As I floated through the final few pages of "Up at the Villa," I remarked to myself that this prose style is the way I want to write myself: a clear, crisp style that conveys immense amounts of detail with precious few words. You won't find strings of compound verbs or unnecessary wanderings in this story. Within a few pages, you know the characters intimately, have a great sense of the surrounding atmosphere, and a profound understanding of Mary's situation.

I really have no idea why this book sat around the house so long before I finally read it. Since I have read Maugham before, I knew I had no reason to think I would not appreciate the story. Now that I got off my duff and read "Up at the Villa," I urge you to do the same. If you have never read Maugham before, this is a great place to start. If you do know the joys of this extraordinary writer, spend a few hours brushing up on the wonders of this author's magnificent abilities. ... Read more

12. Works of W. Somerset Maugham. Of Human Bondage, Liza of Lambeth, Moon and Sixpence, The Magician, The Explorer and more (mobi)
by W. Somerset Maugham
Kindle Edition: Pages (2009-10-21)
list price: US$4.99
Asin: B002TQKS1E
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Product Description

This collection was designed for optimal navigation on Kindle and other electronic devices. It is indexed alphabetically, chronologically and by category, making it easier to access individual books, stories and poems. This collection offers lower price, the convenience of a one-time download, and it reduces the clutter in your digital library. All books included in this collection feature a hyperlinked table of contents and footnotes. The collection is complimented by an author biography.

Table of Contents

The Explorer
The Hero
The Land of Promise
The Land of the Blessed Virgin
Liza of Lambeth
The Magician
Moon and Sixpence
Of Human Bondage
The Trembling of a Leaf

W. Somerset Maugham Biography

... Read more

Customer Reviews (1)

5-0 out of 5 stars Works of W. Somerset Maugham
Works of W. Somerset Maugham. Of Human Bondage, Liza of Lambeth, Moon and Sixpence, The Magician, The Explorer and more (mobi)

W. Somerset Maugham's Of Human Bondage is one of the best novels I have ever read. The language is simple. The narration is subtle. The characters are real and display emotions and feelings everyone can identify with. The power of novel becomes apparent when you are reading it. You choke up every once a while, you smile for hours after you have finished reading certain passages, and you comprehend your own self, your woes and possibilities, better through perspectives that novel provides.
I have read his other works. The Magician, The Moon and Six Pence as well as his short stories are a proof of Maugham's ability to tell simple tales with great mastery. These, on their own, make Maugham a great novelist. But it is after reading Of Human Bondage that I realized why most novelists and readers have considered this piece as one the greatest pieces in World Literature. Maugham's aim was perhaps of catharsis and he put his own emotions into the characters, and therefore, he's created a work that is timeless and unforgettable. A must read for everyone who can read.
... Read more

13. The Hero
by W. Somerset (William Somerset) Maugham
Paperback: 174 Pages (2010-07-06)
list price: US$9.99 -- used & new: US$9.99
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Asin: B003YMMP90
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Product Description
The Hero is presented here in a high quality paperback edition. This popular classic work by W. Somerset (William Somerset) Maugham is in the English language. If you enjoy the works of W. Somerset (William Somerset) Maugham then we highly recommend this publication for your book collection. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (2)

4-0 out of 5 stars Good Maugham story
This is one Maugham's shorter works whichI enjoyed very much.I will not add to the very extensive review provided by another except to say the reader will easily sympathize with the hero and marvel at Mr. Maugham's insight into the human condition. A very satisfying read.

4-0 out of 5 stars Bit dicky; but comfortable
In The Hero, which was originally published in 1901, Somerset Maugham tells the story of Captain James Parsons, who comes home to Little Primpton a wounded hero. He's been away for five years, first at Sandhurst and then in India and South Africa. During that time he has not seen his parents--his "people," as Maugham consistently refers to them--nor his fiancé, Mary Clibborn, to whom he was engaged shortly before he left home. Upon his return he finds, unhappily, that everything has changed. Or rather, he has: his experiences have broadened his mind, and he now finds the dogmatism and puritanical attitudes of his parents and their circle unbearably oppressive. His parents adore him and yet their love is conditional upon his adherence to the rigid code by which their lives are circumscribed. Mary is no better. Ostensibly an angel of mercy, whose good deeds toward the ill of Little Primpton are outdone only by the kindnesses she heaps on James and his parents, she is in fact an odious creature, small-minded and convinced of her own rightness and out to change James into the sort of husband she should like. It doesn't help that during his time away James experienced real passion, falling helplessly in love with the wife of a friend, a woman who made a habit of collecting and toying with admirers. His burning infatuation for this woman made James realize that his relationship with Mary, which he'd taken as love, had never been anything more than a comfortable friendship.

Maugham fashions of this private drama a surprisingly suspenseful story: will James free himself before it's too late from the obligations of an oppressive marriage, or will his conscience not allow him to disappoint Mary and his parents? One doesn't know until the last sentence of the book proper (there is a brief epilogue as well) how things will end.

Maugham allows himself a purple passage or two, but apart from those occasional bits the book reads very quickly. His characterizations are superb: one can imagine very well the vile people with whom James is forced to consort. (In fact I'm sure I recognize a relative or two in these pages.) At over a century old, the book does offer the occasional head-scratcher, dialogue-wise:

"'How d'you feel?' I asked. 'Bit dicky; but comfortable. I didn't funk it, did I?' 'No, of course not, you juggins!' I said."

But there's in fact very little of that sort of thing. The Kindle's built-in dictionary did prove very helpful on this one, though ("glebe," anyone?).

Readily available for free or cheap in electronic form, Maugham's Hero is worth the download.

-- Debra Hamel ... Read more

14. Tellers of Tales 1ST Edition
by W Somerset Maugham
 Hardcover: Pages (1939)

Asin: B000Q3B0AK
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15. Liza of Lambeth
by W Somerset 1874-1965 Maugham
 Paperback: 228 Pages (2010-09-07)
list price: US$25.75 -- used & new: US$17.80
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Asin: 1171569793
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Down among the drab slums of Lambeth, eighteen-year-old Liza is the darling of Vere Street. Vibrant and bewitching, she has found an adoring if conventional beau in Tom. When she meets Jim Blakeston, a married man new to the area, she is immediately magnetized by his attentions. But the streets are wise to their affair. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (7)

3-0 out of 5 stars I love Maugham, but...
Maugham is one of my favorite novelists. He writes in a way that is so real and his stories are timeless. He is especially insightful when writing about men. This book is very different than his other books; the lead character is a woman. Just like his other books, Maugham transports the reader inside the mind of the lead character. Unfortunately, in this case, there isn't much going on in her head. Liza doesn't exactly think about what she is doing and what results is a heartbreaking story that left me feeling bereft when I finished the book. When I started to write this review, I was not going to recommend the book, however I realize that unlike most novels I've read, I still vividly remember what happened to Liza. It has stayed with me. And what happened to Liza happened frequently to women of that time. If you Love Maugham, try this short novel. I'd be curious what you think.

5-0 out of 5 stars Interesting, sad little tale
I've read several books since reading Liza of Lambeth, yet Liza continues to come to mind. Her need for attention, naivete, search for affection - made me want to reach out to her. Her story could have gone in so many other directions.

I will definitely have to try more Maugham.

5-0 out of 5 stars Preview Of What Was To Come
Maugham's very first published work has many of the elements that would be evident in his later works and that set him apart as one of the truly accomplished men of letters of his era. Lisa Of Lambeth is set in a poor working district of South London where Maugham practiced medicine as a younger man and demonstrates the remarkable powers of observation that were crucial to his later success. The tragic story of a bright young girl's affair with a married man has the pacing and feel not only of Maugham's later novels but has dramatic buildup and dialogue so predictive of his later success as a playwright.

The novel certainly stands on it's own since the story and the characters are very engaging. The style captures the local accents and atmosphere of the close living quarters perfectly.
A truly remarkable debut from one of the best.

4-0 out of 5 stars Slice of life depiction of England's underclass
This was Somerset Maugham's first novel and reflects the naturalistic tendencies popular with many novels written at the time. Set among the working poor in the slums of Lambeth, Liza Kemp rejects the marriage proposal of the decent and worthy Tom and becomes the lover of a married blackguard Jim Blakeston. He treats her horribly and when she becomes pregnant with his child, his wife savagely beats her, causing a miscarriage and her eventual death. Maugham does not moralize but writes in an almost clinical manner (much of it is based on his experiences as a doctor among the poor in London). There is some humor in the dialect writing and in some of the scenes (the street dance where Liza is chased and finally "caught" by Blakeston, for example), but basically it's a pretty grim affair. The characterization of Liza is realistic and believable: she is not a total innocent and victim of evil, though she is forced to take an awful amount of abuse. Perhaps her rejection of Tom (twice!) stretches our credulity, but she is faithful to the no-good Jim right to the bitter end. It's a realistic slice-of-life portrait of life among the underclass.

3-0 out of 5 stars Maugham's debut novel
"Liza of Lambeth," Maugham's literary debut, is a less accomplished and complex novel than later masterpieces such as "The Razor's Edge" and "The Moon and Sixpence."Nevertheless, this novel is well worth the read.It chronicles Liza, a young woman who lives in a lower class London neighborhood.She struggles as she works in a factory and helps her alcoholic mother.Despite the rather grim setting, the characters are suprisingly full of life and humor.Liza is a bit of a social butterfly in the neighborhood and is well-liked until she garners the attention of a married man.This connection grows with tragic consequences.There is little sentimentality in the novel, and Maugham was apparently inspired by his work as a medical student in the London slums.Overall, a quick read and a good character study of a young, head-strong woman in late 19th century London. ... Read more

16. Of Human Bondage (Signet Classics)
by W. Somerset Maugham
Paperback: 704 Pages (2007-01-02)
list price: US$5.95 -- used & new: US$3.03
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0451530179
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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From an orphan with a clubfoot, Philip Carey grows into an impressionable young man with a voracious appetite for adventure and knowledge. Then he falls obsessively in love, embarking on a disastrous relationship that will change his life forever. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (18)

5-0 out of 5 stars Of Human Bondage
It is in the top 5 best books I have read, definately worth a read.

5-0 out of 5 stars Riveting story, fascinating characters, thoughtful insights
OF HUMAN BONDAGE is a portrait of Philip Carey, a sensitive young man with a serious inferiority complex. The novel charts Philip's stormy career and complex relationships with dozens of memorable characters over the course of twenty years, keenly documenting the evolution of his personality.

I'd previously read a couple of Maugham's other works (THE MOON AND SIXPENCE, THE RAZOR'S EDGE), and they were both very fine. But the epic scope, fine detail and operatic intensity of this book makes them seem like short stories by comparison.

Midway through the novel, I found myself yelling at Philip OUT LOUD for behaving so stupidly. This was the first time in nearly 50 years of reading that I have EVER addressed a character in a book. :)

Don't start OF HUMAN BONDAGE unless you have the time to finish it, because you won't be able to put it down. It's a ripping good story, masterfully told.

5-0 out of 5 stars True to life
This thoughtfully written novel conjured up in my mind various friends I've known with its realistic portrayal of Mildred Rogers.These women try to control and use men with their charms and sex appeal.I have a friend who, like Mildred, goes out to eat with guys she's not interested in for free food (and possibly because she's bored).She also gets free roadside assistance from random dudes when her crap car breaks down.I had a friend who repeatedly cheated on her fiance until he finally dumped her and married someone else.She was shocked because she thought he would always wait for her and even wanted to stop his wedding.In the novel after Mildred continually tramples over his heart, Phillip eventually stops loving her.Yet when Mildred returns, she still expects him to do everything for her as if the past doesn't matter.When I read this, I thought wow there are real people like this and I knew them. There are women who don't want to work hard or do anything for themselves, but take the easy way out by manipulating and controlling men.And like Mildred they end up being a rental or stuck in abusive relationships.Although it's fiction, it's true.

5-0 out of 5 stars One of the 20th Century's Greatest Novels
Of Human Bondage is W. Somerset Maugham's most famous work and generally considered his masterpiece. It is also probably the greatest bildungsroman ever written and one of the twentieth century's chief novels for its manifold excellences:characterization, style, depth, range, and more. There is hardly a fine literary quality lacking, and they coalesce to form a powerful, moving, and unforgettable masterwork.

Essentially a fictional biography, the novel is the story of Philip Carey from shortly after birth until about middle age. Unlike many bildungsromans, it is told in third-person, but the focus rarely leaves Philip. Like most people, his life has many ups and downs, and they are portrayed so believably and sympathetically that we feel his alternating hope and despair along with him. He experiences nearly every human emotion throughout the book, and they are dramatized with such verisimilitude that we feel they are ours. And indeed they are; Maugham makes sure to include enough atypical events to make the book interesting, but the core of Philip's experience is central to the human condition. The novel is to a large degree based on Maugham's own life, which is important for those interested in his biography, but critics have unfortunately stressed this so much that it overshadows far more important universal elements. As growing up is much the same everywhere, nearly everyone can relate in some way and many quite closely. Maugham depicts emotional profundity and immediacy more strongly and viscerally than perhaps any writer, and we are able to relive much of our lives through Philip. We feel his childhood joys and pained confusion, his adolescent struggles and doubts, his young adult exuberance and uncertainty, and his older ambiguity. There is much pathos but also elation and triumph - indeed pretty much everything but comedy. Much of the power comes from the reality that, again like nearly everyone, Philip is far from perfect; intelligent, sensitive, and ambitious but sometimes vain and selfish, he has many conventionally good and admirable qualities but also clear faults. This makes him far easier to identify with than some lofty hero. Simply put, the novel truly gets to the heart of what it means to be human, portraying it more vividly and realistically than nearly any work, and it hardly seems possible to be human and not be moved by it.

The excellent characterization also goes beyond Philip. All the characters are realistically drawn, and many seem so alive that they practically jump off the page. It would be hard to forget Philip's tender mother, his stern and lifeless uncle, his aloof but well-meaning aunt, and many other characters. The main one after Philip is Mildred, his unwanted obsession. She is one of the least likable characters in all literature but nonetheless in many ways fascinating. It is a testament to Maugham's art that he draws characters so well and precisely that we react just as he wants. When we realize the novel was published in 1915, it is also easy to see that he was truly pushing the proverbial envelope content-wise in regard to sexual and other matters - an important fact for which he rarely gets credit.

The novel is also of great historical value for its detailed and ever-fascinating glimpse into late nineteenth-century European life. We learn much about rural England, childhood education, London, Paris and especially its art schools, the medical and ecclesiastical professions, Germany and language schools, and far more. Much of it is interesting to sociologists and others of their ilk as well as historians, particularly the bleak depictions of poverty and labor. The novel is a wake-up call of sorts to those who exalt one era over others, as it clearly shows that all have pros and cons. Some champion the late Victorian era as an artistic high point, and we indeed get a glimpse of a cultural height far exceeding ours. However, there was also a very substantial dark side, and it is impossible to read this without a sense of just how much the developed world has improved in some ways. Of Human Bondage can thus also be seen as a historical novel in the best sense.

However, the greatest asset for many will be the dramatization of various weighty themes and ideas. Simply showing a fairly representative human life believably and movingly is enough art for most, but some high examples - e.g., David Copperfield - leave a vocal minority cold by not tackling the philosophical, theological, and other heavy issues that have been literature's, and especially long novels', top concerns for over a century. Of Human Bondage does this as much as possible in a novel of its kind - and indeed more than many claiming to do little else. Recurring difficulties cause Philip to question many assumptions, namely religion, and struggle to find meaning. This eventually leads him to abandon religion, a gradual and often painful process that the novel details in a very lifelike, meaningfully moving, and thought-provoking way. Its consequences are similarly shown, and religion opponents will find much to like, as the book advances many of their ends without the heavy-handedness that turns off so many. Palatability comes mainly from being dramatized through a believable and sympathetic character who starts out religious. We see how and why he loses faith rather than just being told, and the descriptions, along with consequent arguments, are very convincing. Much the same can be said of Philip's love and desire struggles; the Mildred case may be somewhat extreme, but almost anyone can identify - and sympathize - with love's ups and downs as he feels them.

The novel also examines fate's existence or non-existence in various ways. Philip seems to vacillate slightly but clearly ends up believing in free will. However, the book itself arguably gives the overall impression of predestination as illustrated in its enduring chessboard metaphor. Less universally, but importantly for a work of art, the book also examines art and artists' social role. This is notable and interesting because the book is set in the late 1800s, the Aesthetic movement's height and the era when the question was most debated in modern times. A lover of reading and would-be painter, Philip begins adulthood with a very aesthetic view, but failures lead him to change. He ends up adopting a very traditional stance while keeping his love for art, and the narrative voice makes a strong case for such practicality as the only way to true happiness. This might seem surprising from an artist like Maugham, and elements such as the ambiguous depiction of the poet Cronshaw suggest that Maugham and the novel, if not Philip, think there is much to be said for the other side. Other Maugham books indeed come to near-opposite conclusions, but this is his most full-fledged and arguably most convincing presentation.

Most fundamental are Philip's varying encounters with humanity's best and worst sides. The novel unflinchingly depicts many things that add grist to misanthropy's mill:seemingly preternaturally cruel children, hypocritical preachers, unrewarded genius, classism, apathy toward supposed loved ones as well as poverty and other sufferings, the lower classes' wretched lives, prostitution's horrors, and more. Maugham is certainly unafraid to show society's dark underbelly, and though depression is not his goal, he portrays this dark side more precisely - and thus appallingly - than many writers who make exposing it their only goal. However, he also shows the opposite side, and Philip's pained search for meaning - with all its doubts, failures, second guesses, sudden shattered hopes, and all the rest of it - ends in what Maugham calls a "surrender to happiness." Philip knows there is no god or traditional meaning and can torture himself forever with philosophical hair-splitting, but hard experience has taught him that happiness is extremely rare and that one must seize it for proverbial dear life if a chance is ever mercifully given. This may be caving to convention in many ways but is the only way to even temporarily secure happiness in an existential world; as the novel memorably concludes, it is "a defeat better than many victories" if indeed a defeat. Like many secular people, he finds solace finally in love's redemptive power, and it is very hard for even the most cynical to begrudge his happiness. Philip is in a large sense a mirror for our lives, and most can only hope that they will some day see such a contented reflection, however hard won.

Finally, it is worth noting that much of the book's power comes from precisely sculpted prose. Maugham is well-known as one of the twentieth century's best and most influential stylists, and this is the apex of his economical prose. Those who want flashy, trope-laden writing may think him plain, and he is certainly unornamented, but he is one of the few writers who truly understands and adheres to Jonathan Swift's famous definition of good style:"proper words in proper places." It sounds absurdly simple, but anyone who has read widely knows how very rarely it is followed. Maugham knows exactly what words are needed to convey what he wants and does not need to use more. This novel is a testament to how much depth and emotion one can get across in a properly done simple style.

All told, the novel is essential for anyone who likes nineteenth- or twentieth-century fiction, bildungsromans, or historical novels as well as those interested in the era and those who are simply receptive to great art. Of Human Bondage reaches the sublime heights of the nineteenth century's best novels, and very few later books can even rival it; we may never see another novel like it - much less as good as it -, making it all the more essential.

5-0 out of 5 stars A finely written book
If you are asking me if you should read this book, the answer is an unequivocal yes. It is fine writing because it is life, told simply and powerfully. It is true what others say. Maugham so intertwines the reader with the main character that the reader actually becomes angry and sorrowful and happy with that character. When a writer can engage the reader to that extent, he is at the top of his form. I don't like everything that Maugham wrote, but that doesn't really matter. Here he proves his greatness and I can only tell you to read it to see what I mean. ... Read more

17. The Collected Short Stories of W. Somerset Maugham, Vol. 2
by W. SomersetMaugham
Paperback: 432 Pages (1991-02-28)
list price: US$4.95 -- used & new: US$27.70
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0140018727
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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4-0 out of 5 stars A Little-Known Treasure, Receding In Time
Maugham's short stories represent a world that no longer exists, or several worlds. One is the world of the wealthy English colonial traveler who visits Malaya in 1905 or Vietnam in 1910 just for kicks, and stays fora month, digging the place. Imagine the variety of people you wouldencounter in those places. Maugham is justifiably recognized as one of thegreat psychologists of English literature, and his observations are acute.In some way, his people and his stories hold as much meaning for us now asthey did when first written. There's the colonial preacher and the outpostwhore. The rubber plantation foreman who carefully reads his 4-month-oldnewspapers from home in order. Maugham sees inside their hearts and writesabout them in a spare, elegant prose.Anyone yearning to become a writerwould do well to study Maugham closely and read his books on writing. Hewas a master.(Of side interest, Maugham stuttered all his life. Whileplanning the autobiographical OF HUMAN BONDAGE, he wanted the protagonistto have a handicap, but rejected stuttering as "too pathetic", Hechose a clubfoot instead.) ... Read more

18. The Narrow Corner (Vintage International)
by W. Somerset Maugham
Paperback: 320 Pages (2009-12-01)
list price: US$15.00 -- used & new: US$8.54
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0307473201
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Filled with adventure, passion, and intrigue, The Narrow Corner is a classic tale of the sea by one of the twentieth-century's finest writers.
Island hoping across the South Pacific, the esteemed Dr. Saunders is offered passage by Captain Nichols and his companion Fred Blake, two men who appear unsavory, yet any means of transportation is hard to resist. The trip turns turbulent, however, when a vicious storm forces them to seek shelter on the remote island of Kanda. There these three men fall under the spell of the sultry and stunningly beautiful Louise, and their story spirals into a wicked tale of love, murder, jealousy, and suicide. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (5)

4-0 out of 5 stars Dr. Saunders is Maugham
First of all, perhaps Amazon or the publisher will change the lurid and erroneous Product Description of this book: "these three men (Nichols, Blake and Saunders) fall under the spell of the sultry and stunningly beautiful Louise, and their story spirals into a wicked tale of love, murder, jealousy, and suicide."

Never mind the purple prose, in fact just one of the three men, young Fred Blake, wants to bonk Louise.It's amusing for those of us who have actually read the book to imagine old Captain Nichols or Doc Saunders wanting to get a leg over.

I read a deep thinker earlier today (one Scott Eyman, Palm Beach Post) regurgitating the same thing about the spellbound threesome.Makes one lose one's faith in critics it does.

Anyway, I loved this book.Just about anything Maugham writes I enjoy, but I especially like the tales that take place in the East and the Pacific.

Captain Nichols is a wonderful character.Maugham writes he kept him on ice for years (he was briefly introduced in "The Moon and Sixpence) 'til he could put him in a novel.

Blake I found a bit thin.Same with Frith.I liked old Swan a lot.The young Dane (can't remember his name) was good.The girl, Louise, was OK.I certainly got a stiffy reading about her, but found it ah, hard to believe how cool and collected she was for her age.

Maugham has trouble with a lot of readers because his characters aren't all of a piece:Nichols is a disgusting swine, but is brave.Frith is a selfish fool, but is a gentleman.Blake is a spoiled rich kid, but grows interesting and gets your sympathy in the end.In short, they are not caricatures, but human characters.

But the star of the show is Dr. Saunders.I just read it a couple of weeks ago and I remember it reads (in the third person, btw) like Maughamtalking in the first person about himself.Saunders' detached, amused and tolerant outlook on life seems identical to the author's.You can imagine Saunders writing a Maugham story.

I loathe the usual undergraduate approach to lit crit, but Saunders' having been struck from the medical register (or whatever it is when docs get booted) and his apparent opium addiction might be compared to Maugham's shameful stammer.Certainly Saunders' cutie pie Chinese boy is right out of the author's private world.And Maugham was a qualified doctor himself.

Four stars 'cause of the weakness of the Louise character.A gripping story.As always, there is Maughams' wonderful tone.Very funny in parts.Excellent feel for weather and sea and landscape.I enjoyed it a lot.A sultry spiraling wicked tale of love, murder, jealousy and suicide, as Amazon might put it.

5-0 out of 5 stars MAUGHAM IS A MASTER

For me, one of life's pleasures is reading or rereading Somerset Maugham.The luster of his prose never dulls; his ability to capture a character vividly always intrigues.He never does this with anything as prosaic has a physical description or "He Said," but rather by revealing a telling thought or action.Thus, it was with happy anticipation that I opened THE NARROW CORNER.

Once again Maugham carries us to the far corners of the world and introduces rare characters who meet aboard ship, a lugger to be exact. We meet Dr. Saunders, an opium addicted medic, who has lived and practicedin Fu-chou for 15 years.He is an easy man to get along with, observant and non-judgmental."Right and wrong were no more to him than good weather and bad weather.He took them as they came.He judged but he did not condemn.He laughed."

Saunders is paid a sizeable sum of money to go to Takana to perform surgery on a nearly blind former patient.It turns out to be an incredible journey both on sea and land.

The lugger is a rather sad vessel captained by Nichols, an unsavory character, happy to be escaping from his nagging missus.Saunders finds but one other passenger on board, Fred Blake, a mysterious young man.It seems that Nichols had been retained to take Blake to sea.Following a horrendous storm the ship puts in at a small island, Kanda, formerly a center for spice trade.Here they not only find refuge but the beginnings of a dark drama.

They meet a meager few islanders who are barely making a living, yet seem content with their lot.Among them is a beautiful young woman, Louise.What follows is unexpected emotional upheaval and death.

Maugham sprinkles his narrative with descriptions of the tropical island so vivid that one can almost feel the heat.To read this author is to recognize a master at work, and to read one of his short novels such as THE NARROW CORNER is simply to leave one wanting more.


- Gail Cooke

5-0 out of 5 stars One of Maugham's Best Novels.
This is one of Maugham's best novels.It really reads like one of his short stories which has been very extended and expanded.Highly recommended.

4-0 out of 5 stars Good Maugham Book
Maugham writes about a British doctor who lives in the South Pacific.At the outset of this book, Dr. Saunders must travel to China to help out a wealthy man.Once there, he completes his task and must wait for a boat totake him back to his home.During the waiting process, he runs into a pairof traders, who offer to take him back part of the way.The traders,Captain Nichols, and his associate Fred Blake, are two very interestingcharacters who aren't what they seem to be. During their travels, Dr.Saunders learns more about the pair.Nichols is a scoundrel and hasproblems holding a job.Fred Blake, a young and handsome man, hides hispast, but the reader is given clues that he had to flee from Sydney toavoid the authorities(which is later revealed). During a storm, thetrio befriend fellow British people on a beautiful island.They learn someof the history and are introduced to Louise; a beautiful girl who issmitten by Blake.They have a one night fling, which causes the story'stension to begin -- Blake is haunted by his past and Louise's fiancée (whoshe loves, but not with her heart) commits suicide over the incident. Dr.Saunders is a spectator for the most part in this story.His life'sphilosophy is take what one can from life and learn to deal with it.Hewatches the various characters interact -- and Maugham does a great jobwith the characters.The writing is almost like Hemingway and the readeris drawn into the feeling of the South Pacific.The book is fairly deep --with hints of Buddhism / Hinduism, karma, and detachment.The book wasvery slow to start (took about half way before any plot developed) but thewriting hooked me and the ending was a gold mine.

4-0 out of 5 stars Dr. exiled to tropics develops Buddhist non attachment
Although this book was met with less than glowing reviews and is little known today, it probably best exemplifies the expresson, "That (It) was right out of Somerset Maugham." It has all the trappings that wethink of when we think of Maugham. If there is a "Greeneland"(Graham Greene) then this novel is most assuredly, Maughamland. It takesplace in the East Indies and has the string of colorful characters, anOpiem taking Doctor, A broken down sea captain and a women who findsherself liberated by the death of a man she is attached to. ProbablyMaugham's fifth most important novel, it is rather like taking many of hisshort story themes and elongating them into one novel. The lead character,Dr. Sanders finally resigns himself to a lazy mans view of BuddhistNon-atachment and it becomes a theme Maugham would explore more deeply inthe "Razor's Edge." Like most of Maugham it is a alot of fun toread. Even, or maybe especially, today. ... Read more

19. The Merry-go-round
Kindle Edition: Pages (2009-12-08)
list price: US$3.98
Asin: B00309CNIK
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description

a selection from the beginning of:



ALL her life Miss Elizabeth Dwarris had been a sore trial to her relations. A woman of means, she ruled tyrannously over a large number of impecunious cousins, using her bank balance like the scorpions of Rehoboam to chastise them; and, like many another pious creature, for their souls' good making all and sundry excessively miserable. Nurtured in the Evangelical ways current in her youth, she insisted that her connections should seek salvation according to her own lights, and with harsh tongue and bitter gibe made it her constant business to persuade them of their extreme unworthiness. She arranged lives as she thought fit, and ventured not only to order the costume and habits, but even the inner thought, of those about her; the Last Judgment could have no terrors for any that had faced her searching examination. She invited to stay with her in succession various poor ladies who presumed on a distant tie to call her Aunt Eliza, and they accepted her summons, more imperious than a royal command, with gratitude by no means unmixed with fear, bearing the servitude meekly as a cross which in the future would meet due testamentary reward.

Miss Dwarris loved to feel her power. During these long visits-for in a way the old lady was very hospitable-she made it her especial object to break the spirit of her guests, and it entertained her hugely to see the mildness with which were borne her extravagant demands, the humility with which every inclination was crushed. She took a malicious pleasure in publicly affronting persons, ostensibly to bend a sinful pride, or in obliging them to do things which they peculiarly disliked. With a singular quickness for discovering the points on which they were most sensitive, she attacked every weakness with blunt invective till the sufferer writhed before her raw and bleeding; no defect, physical or mental, was protected from her raillery, and she could pardon as little an excess of avoirdupois as a want of memory. Yet with all her heart she despised her victims, she flung in their face insolently their mercenary spirit, vowing that she would never leave a penny to such a pack of weak fools; it delighted her to ask for advice in the distribution of her property among charitable societies, and she heard with unconcealed hilarity their unwilling and confused suggestions. .

With one of her relations only Miss Dwarris found it needful to observe a certain restraint-for Miss Ley, perhaps the most distant of her cousins, was as plain-spoken as herself, and had besides a far keener wit, whereby she could turn rash statements to the utter ridicule of the speaker. Nor did Miss Dwarris precisely dislike this independent spirit; she looked upon her, in fact, with a certain degree of affection and not a little fear. Miss Ley, seldom lacking a repartee, appeared really to enjoy the verbal contests, from which, by her greater urbanity, readiness, and knowledge, she usually emerged victorious; it confounded, but at the same time almost amused, the elder lady that a woman so much poorer than herself, with no smaller claim than others to the coveted inheritance, should venture not only to be facetious at her expense, but even to carry war into her very camp. Miss Ley, really not grieved to find someone to whom without prickings of conscience she could speak her whole mind, took a grim pleasure in pointing out to her cousin the poor logic of her observations or the foolish unreason of her acts. No cherished opinion of Miss Dwarris was safe from satire; even her Evangelicism was laughed at, and the rich old woman, unused to argument, was easily driven to self-contradiction; and then-for the victor took no pains to conceal her triumph-she grew pale and speechless with rage....

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Customer Reviews (2)

5-0 out of 5 stars Another great Maugham story
This book again earns Mangham's default 5 star rating.While not as significant as "Razors Edge" or The Moon and Sixpence", it is far betterthen "Catalina" or "Up the Villa."In this period piece set in the latenineteenth/early twentieth century Maugham iterates and conceives storyelements from "Cakes and Ale," "Sanitarium" and Lisa of Lambeth" in tellingthe story of an incestuous cabal of Bourgeoisie English; exposing theirspiritual hypocrisy, internecine conflicts, and narrow mindedclassicism.

The numerous characters involved and developed is morereminiscent of Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina" or then the authors previous workswith the exception of "Cakes and Ale."However Maugham never gets overlyinvolved with the irrelevant details, rather as master of mood he sets eachcharacter up in the first half of the book for a harsh realization ofreality in the second half of the book (ala the Merry Go Round).This bookdemonstrates plausibly the vicissitudes of life.Readers with concretenotions of the way things should be may find this book reflective and/ordisturbing.The virtuous sin, the dogmatic get a reality check, and themighty fall.Classic Maugham.This book is delightful in its revelationof the scope and ambit of frail human beliefs and values.

If you likeMaugham books you will like the Merry-Go-Round.There is nothing new herefor the Muagham reader as far as themes and characters but it is anotherwonderful read and another telling statement on the human condition.

5-0 out of 5 stars Another great Maugham story
This book again earns Mangham's default 5 star rating.While not as significant as "Razors Edge" or The Moon and Sixpence", it is far better then "Catalina" or "Up the Villa."In this period piece set in the latenineteenth/early twentieth century Maugham borrow plots from "Cakes andAle," "Sanitarium" and Lisa of Lambeth" in telling the story of anincestuous cabal of bourgeoisie English; exposing their spiritualhypocrisy, irrelavant internecine conflicts, and narrow mindedclassicism.

The numerous characters involved and developed is morereminiscent of Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina" or then the authors previous workswith the exception of "Cakes and Ale."However Maugham never gets overlyinvolved with the irrelevant details, rather as master of mood he sets eachcharacter up in the first half of the book for a harsh realization ofreality in the second half of the book (ala the Merry Go Round).This bookdemonstrates plausibly the vicissitudes of life.Readers with concretenotions of the way things should be may be shook.The virtuous sin, thedogmatic get a reality check, and the mighty fall.Classic Maugham.Thisbook is delightful in its revelation of the scope and ambit of frail humanbeliefs and values.

If you like Maugham books you will like theMerry-Go-Round.There is nothing new here for the Muagham reader as far asthemes and characters but it is another wonderful read and another tellingstatement on the human condition. ... Read more

20. Rain and Other South Sea Stories (Thrift Edition)
by W. Somerset Maugham
Paperback: 176 Pages (2005-09-23)
list price: US$4.95 -- used & new: US$1.94
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0486445623
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description

This collection features one of Maugham's most famous tales, "Rain," concerning the clash between a missionary and a prostitute. It also includes "Macintosh," a psychological study of the competition between two officials; "The Fall of Edward Barnard," a tale of social rebellion that foreshadows The Razor's Edge; "The Pool," and other compelling stories of life in the tropics.
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Customer Reviews (5)

5-0 out of 5 stars A LUXUIOUS PLEASURE TO READ.

"...and the mystery of the sunset, the deep silence of the water, the lithe grace of the coconut trees, added to her beauty, giving it a profundity, a magic which stirred the heart to unknown emotions."--page 114

"His manner was not agreeable.It was sycophantic, and yet behind the cringing air of an old man who had been worsted in his struggle with fate was a shadow of old truculence."--page 115

W. Somerset Maugham, storyteller par excellence, is a master of the character flaw; crafting hauntingly beautiful and subtle portraits of distressingly, often fatally, flawed characters, all the while holding a mirror up to a horribly, rip-your-heart-out flawed humanity.The collection of short stories in `Rain and Other South Sea Stories,' teeming with characters you'll both love and hate almost simultaneously, lushly and entertainingly reaffirms Maugham's superior storytelling talent.

Recommendation:Like O'Henry, Damon Runyon, and Mark Twain; W. Somerset Maugham is one of my favorite go-to guys whenever I want to read something just for the pure pleasure of the reading.If you like a touch of profundity and magic with your beauty, he's the writer for you.As C. K. Chesterton aptly puts it, "Literature is a luxury; fiction is a necessity."For me, reading W. Somerset Maugham, from time to time, is a necessary luxury.

[A word about Dover Publications, Thrift Editions:Unless you have incredibly good, un-hobbled eyesight avoid at all cost.It seems that all the `Thrift' comes from substantially reducing the number of pages in a volume by printing it in the teeniest-tiniest type ever invented.For anyone whose eyesight has been spoiled by the luxury of 12-pt or better type, and especially by those of us who have been pampered with the larger type sizes available with an electronic reader, the type of a Dover Thrift Edition is very uncomfortable to read.]

Dover Publications Thrift Editions, Copyright 2005; 159 pages.

5-0 out of 5 stars A classic story of good and evil.
Nobody can tell a story of evil masquerading as good quite like W. Somerset Maugham. One of my favorite short stories about a fallen woman who tries to mend her ways only to be attacked by the very man of the cloth who's supposedly trying to save her soul.

3-0 out of 5 stars A Mixed Bag
This collection of short stories is a very mixed bag. They all capture the essence and mood of the surroundings but the stories vary greatly in their readability.

"Rain" and "The Fall of Edward Barnard" are, as I read them, the best in the collection. The action moves along quickly, characters are well-developed and the reader is drawn into the mood immediately.

"Mackintosh" and "Honolulu" are very slow moving. Getting into these two is difficult and takes patience on the part of the reader.The paragraphs and sentences are very long (Faulkner-esque) and at times, tedious.

"Red" and "The Pool" fall somewhere in between the others. These stories are full of excellent descriptions while moving predictably along to the conclusions.

The stories here are not upbeat and the women characters are various shades of annoying, stupid or boring. Nevertheless, I would not hesitate to recommend this collection.

5-0 out of 5 stars Somber, short pieces that are wonderfully morose& beautiful
Worth buying, Asia is still much like this under the glitz and glamour. The essence is captured!

5-0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written
The story Rain is extraordinarily memorable.I recommend this book, though it's definitely not upbeat! ... Read more

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