Sunday, May 7, 2017

BW19: W. Somerset Maugham

W. Somerset Maugham - Courtesy of Carl Van Vechten 



It is a funny thing about life; if you refuse to accept anything 
but the best, you very often get it. ~ W. Somerset Maugham



Our armchair travels are taking us to India as we follow in the footsteps of W. Somerset Maugham. This post is brought to you by Jane, one of our 52 Books Well Trained Mind Book a weeker's, who kindly offered to guest post this week.


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If I had only one word to describe W. Somerset Maugham's writing, it would be "exquisite." Not that I have read everything produced by this prolific novelist and playwright, but those works that I have read never disappointed.

Maugham was a best selling author in his day with many of his novels being made into films. What is often called his masterpiece, Of Human Bondage, was transformed from page to screen three times. The same is true for The Painted Veil. I can't help but wonder if the exotic settings of many of Maugham's novels contributed to his popularity in the teens, twenties and thirties. The Moon and Sixpence, loosely based on the life of painter Paul Gauguin, is set in Paris and Tahiti, The Painted Veil in China. The book we are about to read, The Razor's Edge, will carry us to India. But more on that book later.

Maugham was born in 1874 into a family of lawyers. He lost his mother at age 8, his father two year's later. His childhood under the care of his uncle was dismal and lonely.

Eventually Maugham finds his path. He attends medical school, but on the side he is always writing. London's turn of the century slums where he does medical work provide insight into the human soul.

When WWI begins, Maugham is too old to enlist but joins other literary comrades in the so called Literary Ambulance Corps. Before America's involvement in the war, Hemingway, E.E. Cummings, Archibald MacLeish were among the volunteers. Robert Service and Jerome K Jerome were also among the drivers. (Idea for a 2018 Bingo square: WWI Literary Ambulance Corps author!!)

After the war, Maugham joins British intelligence which leads to another book, Ashenden: Or the British Agent.

The Razor's Edge comes later in this career. Published in 1944, this novel focuses on a wounded WWI veteran who abandons his comfortable American life to pursue truth. From war to the Depression, from Chicago to Paris to India, we shall follow Larry Durrell as he seeks to find the meaning of his life.

I suspect when all is said and done that many of you will also find the writing of W. Somerset Maugham to be exquisite.

Please join me in reading Razor's Edge or the book of your choice by W.Somerset Maugham.

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