Maugham spent the winter months of 1919 travelling 1500 miles up the Yangtze river. Always more interested in people than places, he noted down acute and finely crafted sketches of those he met on countless scraps of paper. In the resulting collection we encounter Western missionaries, army officers, and company managers who are culturally out of their depth in the immensity of the Chinese civilisation. Maugham keenly observes, and gently ridicules, their dogged and oblivious persistence with the life they know.
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.
©2012 W Somerset Maugham (P)2012 Audible Ltd
"Evokes the nostalgic China of "old China hands," replete with rickshaws, coolies and singsing girls" (Los Angeles Times)
"Masterly, carefully wrought prose sketches... The magical, mysterious East is richly portrayed" (Newsday)
"A fascinating volume - vivid, thoughtful, full of colour" (New York Times)
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"Not Maugham's forte"
This is a series of non-fiction vignettes on Chinese life—if you are researching western attitudes to China in the late 19th, early 20th century, perhaps you'll find it useful. But the clichés of thought and action are too embedded and stale to make this book worth listening to. Find Maugham's fiction for a glimpse into his subtle mind and imagination, rather than getting depressed by the lack of understanding here.
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