Friday, April 27, 2012

Cakes and Ale by W. Somerset Maugham

Egads, I forgot to do a wrap-up readathon post. Uh, so, yeah. I read some stuff and ate some stuff and only lasted 16 hours and then I went to beddy-by.

Moving on.

So, Cakes and Ale happened. Let's talk about this. It's about an author who is old and who is having flashbacks of his younger days when he hung out with ANOTHER author who has recently died. The dead guy was considered a Super Genius and The Last Great Victorian and whatnot and WAS PROBABLY Thomas Hardy even though Maugham was all what? I did no such thing. This character has nothing to do with Thomas Hardy even though he has pretty much everything in common with Thomas Hardy except POSSIBLY hair color. Wait, did I get the hair color wrong? SHIT.

That's really the most interesting bit: reading this slightly-boring-but-not-difficult-and-mildly-entertaining thing that to most people is an obvious sketch of Person A and then reading the introduction wherein Maugham spends several pages explaining that it can't be Person A because Person A's wife had a different favorite color and Person A was from a different -shire and Person A's uncle liked MILK, not BEER, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

There's also a fair bit of focus on Person A-who-isn't-Person-A-why-are-you-still-saying-that's WIFE, who marries the great literary genius even though she's a bit of a trollop and was a bar wench and is very pretty in an country sort of way, etc.


So she's subjected to a good bit of snobbery because she's a country-pretty bar-wenching trollop, but We The Readers are supposed to like/pity/empathize with her because she's "natural" and has "feelings" and follows her natural feelings, which are generally summed up in how much she sleeps around. Because other than the sympathy-inducing sleeping around, she never really does/says anything that inclined me to like her. It reminded me of Tess of the D'Ubervilles in it's "don't you love this character because she's a soft and down-to-earth" thing, and also in my reaction: no, I don't love her. She's boring and silly and vapid and I don't care.

Anywoot, my experience with Maugham thus far (this book included) further cements him as a Just Fine and Commercially Successful period writer who is entertaining but challenging in pretty much zero ways.

Three stars out of your mom.


  1. I think Tess is another one of the fewwww books we agree on, because ew, Tess. I was so happy at the end, because at least it was over. Also Angel's a dick and this was not properly addressed. "I AM TORMENTED, because I willingly slept with this lady -- YOU FORGIVE ME? Oh huzza-- YOU WERE WHAT? RAPED BY A GUY? GET AWAY FROM ME, HUSSY!"

    1. Angel is VERY MUCH SO a dick. And you know, I listened to TESS on audiobook and I remember the rape scene being SO VERY vague that I wasn't actually sure what had happened. If someone told me she was seduced I would've believed it. It still would've been someone taking advantage of her. Such a weird book, that.

  2. I've never ready any W. Somerset Maugham and there is a set of 10 books on thebookpeople at some really attractive price but I am not sure if I should buy it...

    What if I hate him and I am stuck with ten books of his?