When Cakes and Ale was first published in 1930 it roused a storm of controversy, since many people imagined they recognised portraits of literary figures now no more. It is the novel for which Maugham wished to be remembered.
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Not one to fall asleep to.
With an intriguing storyline and subtle yet clever characterisation, Cakes and Ale makes for an educational and insightful book. However, this is not for those who don't always pay attention to what they are listening to; Maugham enjoys his tangents, and they are not always brief, so near full attention is required. Otherwise a thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding audible experience.
The life of Thomas Hardy is said to have inspired much of this work, and it explores the balance between a writers fame and worth. As such some have argued that it is an attack on Hardy himself, leading to the penning of 'Gin and Bitters' as a parody of Maugham's efforts.
An engaging and personal narrative, with careful hints in his tone of his possibly protective presentation of some of his memories, despite his insistence otherwise. Even if you are a little taken aback at first, when you get used to his voice and rhythm, you are swept up in the story.
To delve further into the Maugham canon, and to read around the authors who are supposedly the influence for this piece.
An alternative name for this book is 'The Skeleton in the Cupboard', but on reflection 'Cakes and Ale' is much more appropriate in the subtle and vaguely ironic tone that it imparts to the novel as a whole.
A neglected masterpiece from a neglected master
- Welsh Mafia