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Somerset Maugham

(19 Posts)
CoteDAzur Thu 04-Apr-13 10:30:26

I'm struggling with Somerset Maugham's short stories. Felt like the walls were closing in after about 10 pages of "Rain" and flicked through the rest. His writing style feels archaic and nearly unreadable.

Is it him or me? Should I persevere?

racingheart Thu 04-Apr-13 13:24:24

His work is very old fashioned to modern ears. It's very manufactured, not at all naturalistic. If you read it as a piece of fabrication it's easier to enjoy what he does, but even so, I'd always prefer work with a bit more realism thrown in. Don't let it put you off short fiction though.

Sheila Thu 04-Apr-13 13:30:06

Try The Razor's Edge - wonderful story.

CoteDAzur Thu 04-Apr-13 16:04:58

I'll see if Razor's Edge is one of the stories in this book.

CoteDAzur Thu 04-Apr-13 20:08:39

Not many people have read him, then? I had the impression that he was quite an "important" author.

NotGoodNotBad Thu 04-Apr-13 20:19:11

I read quite a lot in my teenage years, though not so much recently. No need to persevere if you don't like him though!

I used to like his stories of south-east Asia, though the most recent one I read was Liza of Lambeth - which I enjoyed too, but I guess some might find it depressing. Lots of his stories are depressing in a way, as they tend to be about failure of one kind or another.

craftycottontail Sat 06-Apr-13 11:05:45

I loved Up at the Villa and The Painted Veil, looking forward to reading more. Agree they do tend to have a melancholy undertone

CoteDAzur Sat 06-Apr-13 21:40:24

I'll see if I have those in my book.

It's not the melancholy aspect but the style that I found unbearable in The Rain - archaic forms, anal dialogues. I don't know. Maybe the other stories are different.

Joseph Conrad did the same theme so much better in Heart Of Darkness, imho.

highlandcoo Sat 06-Apr-13 21:52:47

Heart of Darkness is brilliant - another novel I should read again soon.

This year I've decided to reread - and also read for the first time - a lot of classics. The Painted Veil happens to be my book club read for next month. My first try at Somerset Maugham so will be interesting to see what he's like as a writer.

londonlurker Sun 14-Apr-13 17:57:57

I love him - love all the stylised sentences! - but I agree no point in persevering if you don't. 'Rain' is generally considered one of his best, and pretty archetypical, so if you don't like it you probably won't like the others

donnasummer Sun 14-Apr-13 18:02:27

I love him! not so much the Moon and Sixpence but the Painted Veil, certainly. I think he is great at characterisation and atmosphere. But why persevere if you are reading for enjoyment, and you don't enjoy?

glub Fri 19-Apr-13 10:39:02

i rather enjoyed of human bondage and razor's edge. love those pages where he's just off on one. must try 'rain'.

KittenOfDoom Fri 19-Apr-13 13:54:09

Start with the shorter ones, some of them are only a few pages. Mind you, I have the complete collection in four volumes (inherited from my mother), so I don't know which ones you have.

The claustrophobic feel is quite typical of many of his stories as a lot of them are about ex-pats marooned in remote areas. Tea-planters and remittance men, all that sort of thing. But there are plenty of others too.

YouDontWinFriendsWithSalad Fri 19-Apr-13 14:00:14

I absolutely love Somerset Maugham, one of my favourites ever! Am trying to convince DH that next DC should be called Somerset.

Anyway - try Of Human Bondage and the short story the Vessel of Wrath.

I agree with Kitten about the claustrophobia, one of his running themes is isolation and loneliness and he uses remote locations as a way of embodying this. Also love his charactarisation, he can describe someone's character so beautifully in just a few sentences.

Apparently Maugham was quite the recluse, he used to get his lover to go to local bars in the back of beyond in Southeast Asia and ply the expats with booze and get them to cough up their stories - which were often weird and unsettling, and then Maugham would write about them.

CoteDAzur Sun 21-Apr-13 14:29:59

I'm half way through the book now and really enjoying his stories. I guess it was just that first one called Rain that was mediocre.

juneau Mon 22-Apr-13 17:03:33

I love Somerset Maugham! One of the things I really like is the slightly archaic tone and language - it's such escapism - but then I'd have loved to have been born in about 1890! I haven't tackled any of his longer books yet, but I really enjoyed The Painted Veil, Up at the Villa and The Moon and Sixpence. If you enjoy the short stories I can recommend them.

KittenofDoom Mon 22-Apr-13 17:46:37

Which edition do you have, CDA? Just wondering what the selection is.

CoteDAzur Mon 22-Apr-13 20:16:49

This is the one. I have the Kindle edition.

KittenofDoom Thu 25-Apr-13 20:14:33

The same as mine, except mine is a hardback, 60 years old and falling apart smile it has been read and dipped into so many times. The other volumes are in better nick, I suspect Vol. 1 was lent out more times.

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