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Summary

This is the story of an artist who was willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of art. In much of its general outline, this famous novel follows the life of Paul Gauguin, famous French post-impressionist painter, but it is not a novelized biography of Gauguin. Rather it is a sharply-delineated, carefully wrought "private life", written by one of the most vivid and penetrating contemporary literary masters.

Charles Strickland, the central character, is a stock broker in London. One day, at the age of 40, he leaves his business, his wife, and their children and goes to Paris. He has neither money nor prospects. He knows almost nothing of art. But he is seized with a passion to paint, and for the rest of his life nothing else matters to him. He gives up everything to which he has been accustomed for extreme poverty, social ostracism, and the freedom to paint. When he finally dies of leprosy in Tahiti, where he had gone native, the few paintings that turn up for sale bring only six to 10 francs apiece. But he has achieved his desire to create beauty and, with the years, the world fully recognizes his blazing genius.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Chris
  • London, United Kingdom
  • 01-10-08

Penetrating characterisations

Without sinking into the drone of psycho-babble, WSM creates and explores really colourful characters whose interaction reveals the nature of human being. We travel with these characters through a most engaging story, told with incredibly vivid use of language. I always imagined there must be a story behind the paintings of Gaugin; here it is. The narration is first class. If you haven't yet heard this audiobook then a treat awaits you.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • reggie p
  • 10-10-05

great, simply great

This didn't make any sense to me at first...just seemed like a lot of rambling. Things started to pick up and come together around the 4th chapter and then they got great, really great.
This is a story about a writer writing a story about an artist. The characters are terrific and the plot unexpected. Although the book is relatively short, I felt nothing was left out. It was concise and complex, and I was fully engaged to the end.
The narrator did an absolutely superb job. He's one of the best I've heard.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Michael
  • 20-07-07

Fascinating, discomforting, and worthwhile

The first few chapters might get you worried, rest assured after this extended idle this novel gets going. The novel is an exploration of character and philosophy, which may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I really enjoyed it. The story examines the depth of the veneer of society and the utility of endeavor, even for art, at the expense of all else.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Waligora
  • 02-06-05

chef d'oeuvre

complexity of life and art and love is written with so much intelligence and humour, that even with my difficult english (I'm french), I appreciate this book as one of the best book I ever read, near Dostoievski or Garcia Marquez.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    out of 5 stars
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  • Alan
  • 26-04-05

a great reading by a great reader

excellent.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Hannes
  • 15-12-06

I've heard better

On the basis of Maugham Trembling Leaf which I HIGHLY recommend, I tried this by the same narrator Davidson, one of my absolute favorites. But this story is a nonstop sequence of cliches with unbearably protracted monologues by the rather shallow and empty character of the storyteller of a pithy pseudophilosophical nature. The characters are hackneyed and utterly predictable. Davidson (the narrator) is great with great novels but his attempts at accents and an inferior text make it seem sillier than it already is.

1 of 4 people found this review helpful