William Somerset Maugham (25 January 1874 – 16 December 1965) was an English playwright, novelist and short story writer. He was among the most popular writers of his era and reputedly the highest paid author of the 1930s. Maugham was orphaned by the age of ten, but after an unhappy childhood, he flourished when he moved to London to study medicine as a young man, giving him plenty of inspiration for his literary ambitions. His first novel, Liza of Lambeth, sold out in a matter of weeks, prompting Maugham to leave medicine and embark on a 65-year career as a man of letters. By 1914 he was famous, with ten successful plays produced and ten novels published. In 1917, he was asked by the British Secret Intelligence Service (now MI6) to undertake a special mission in Russia; an experience which would go on to inspire Ashenden, a collection of short stories about a gentlemanly spy that influenced Ian Fleming’s James Bond series. Maugham’s most famous works include Of Human Bondage, a semiautobiographical novel, The Moon and Sixpence, Cakes and Ale and The Razor’s Edge. His writing has inspired a string of over 35 film adaptations and has influenced many notable authors, including Anthony Burgess, George Orwell and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
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By Alison on 28-03-14
Of Its Era
The latest in my current occasional re-visits to old favourite Somerset Maugham novels. Theatre is short and punchy, frothy and very easy listening. I really enjoyed it, but it is very much of its time: cliched as it now may sound to us, I also very much liked being taken back to a era of glamour, grease-paint and glittering parties!
The chief character is Julia and (unusually, I think, for WSM) he does present us with a pretty well-rounded female 'lead'. She's clever - but very one-dimensional; she's flawed - and in many ways, she knows her own failings, despite staggering vanity and self-awareness. But I really liked her. Compared to her, the other characters seem less vivid - I imagine this is how the author meant us to feel.
Well read, in a voice that coped quite well with the male characters too, the narration also seemed a period piece, so it worked very well, for me.
If you fancy a few hours in the dressing rooms and cocktail parties of the stars, with nothing to tax your senses or offer any listening peril whatsoever, I recommend Theatre.
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