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Summary

Exclusively from Audible

Somerset Maugham's success as a writer enabled him to indulge his adventurous love of travel, and he recorded the sights and sounds of his wide-ranging journeys with a unique urbane, wry style. The Gentleman in the Parlour is an account of the author's trip through what was then Burma and Siam, ending in Haiphong, Vietnam. Whether by river to Mandalay, on horse through the mountains and forests of the Shan States to Bangkok, or onwards by sea, Maugham's vivid descriptions bring a lost world to life.

Nearly 100 years later Somerset Maugham is still considered one of the best travel writers. The audiobook gives the listener an honest depiction of colonialist Burma. His gift with words evocatively paints beautiful descriptions of incredible landscapes and offers the audience a historical account of a world where attitudes were very different.

William Somerset Maugham 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. 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 10 successful plays produced and 10 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.

Narrator Biography

Philip Bird has recorded dozens of titles for Audible, most recently Ron Hall & Nicholas Tomalin's The Strange Last Voyage of Donald Crowhurst and Georges Simenon's The Mahé Circle. Recent theatre credits include Labyrinth, Sunny Afternoon, The Cherry Orchard, and several plays at Shakespeare's Globe, including The Merry Wives of Windsor, As You Like It, and The Merchant of Venice.

Bird's television credits include Midsomer Murders, Emerald City, EastEnders, Casualty, Emmerdale, My Family, Heartbeat, Coronation Street, and Holby City. His films include Blessed, Imagine Me and You, and Killing Joe. His radio credits include When the Dog Dies and readings for Something Understood.

Public Domain (P)2012 Audible Ltd

Critic reviews

"Maugham's finest travel book.... As the urbane novelist wends his way through tropic climes, he reads Proust under the mosquito netting, listens to stories of passion and madness from British colonials gone to seed, and bears up under the merciless sun, sipping at a gin and bitters and laying out a hand of solitaire." (Washington Post)
"An elegant writer's notebook, imaginative, crammed with impressions and ideas received simply and directly, without the filtering screens of literariness or Englishness.... He writes with majestic plainness." (The Times)
"A delightful book - it contains vivid travel impressions, some autobiographical confidences, and the plots for a dozen novels." (Spectator)

What listeners say about The Gentleman in the Parlour

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  • Overall
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Fascinating Insight into a Bygone Age

This is a rich and satisfying travel memoir conjuring an evocative and colourful portrait of a gentleman recreationally travelling through the far east during the dying days of empire. I found the people he met to be the most interesting especially what we'd call nowadays, their 'back stories'. From encounters with devout missionaries to gin and bitters with archetypal ex -pats to seedy old acquaintances with lost dreams and opium habits, the narrater weaves effortlessly embroidered tales of long ago. The tone is occasionally mildly pompous as no doubt accurately reflects the manner of the man. I don't think Maugham is particularly fashionable these days which is a pity as he really is a master of his craft and is well worth discovering, or re-discovering.



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Stories of early 20th C travel in the Far East

Having visited most of the countries I this book over the past few years, I found it fascinating to read the stories of an English traveller nearly 100 years ago...I love Somerset Maugham's style .

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The Gentleman in the Parlour

Fascinating insight into Colonial life and the enormous travels people undertook . A time when people were more well read and well educated in the classical tradition. I enjoyed it very much. The last chapters were not as enjoyable and the ending strange.

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A lovely book.

A book of memories from Maugham's Eastern travels, including also several of his stories, read very nicely. Really enjoyable.