FYI: W. Somerset Maugham was a homosexual British writer who, like E. M. Forster, avoided publishing gay themes during his lifetime. He makes for a good, leisurely read.Maugham, W. Somerset. Cakes and Ale. 1930. New York: Modern Library, 1950.Summary
: Acclaimed novelist Edward Driffield is dead and soon to be the subject of a biography, but his promiscuous first wife Rosie, who eventually ran off with another man, is casting a long shadow over his life history. Only Ashenden, who conducted his own short affair with Rosie, knows the truth of matters--that the couple became estranged after the death of their only daughter.Comments
: Ignore the most bafflingly misleading title; this is a most enjoyable story of a beautifully realized and morally ambiguous female character. Rosie is downright fascinating, and at first you think that she's just amoral. Only at the end do you find out that behind her mischievous smile she was desperately keeping sorrow at bay. Of course, most remember the novel for its many digressions regarding fiction writers and their politicking. Driffield is generally presumed to have been Thomas Hardy, though the author denies this in his introduction. Alroy Kear, ridiculous in his social mastery, IS, however, based upon Hugh Walpole, and Ashenden is a fictionalized Maugham himself. Ashenden observes the transition from Victorian to modern literature with an astute and wry eye that, more than its prescience, is valuable for its on-the-ground view of English literature's trajectory in that moment in time.Notes
: hardcover, Modern Library edition (library book)Rating
- Though Maugham's novel falls short of greatness, it's still recommendable as excellent British writing of its time period.