Hooray holiday blues

13 01 2008

Christmas Holiday by Somerset Maugham

Xmas

A terrific book just brilliantly written and executed. Charley, fresh-faced, charming and yet utterly naive heads for Paris for a jolly Christmas break and fun with his oldest friend, Simon. He’s introduced by Simon to Lydia, exiled Russian and prostitute with whom he ends up spending almost his entire holiday (entirely chastely). During his introduction to the seedier side of Parisian life he hears the extraordinary tale of Lydia’s criminal husband, imprisoned overseas, and is changed in ways he struggles to understand.

In between these subterranean adventures he discovers Simon has turned into a revolutionary zealot but Charley finds his attitudes and behaviour incomprehensible. Finally he returns to the comfort of his secure middle class English family home but changed in many ways. Written just before the outbreak of WWII, Maugham was trying to shake the middle classes out of their complacency about the changes underway in continental Europe.

Compelling and really well written – it’s a long time since I read any Maugham and I’d forgotten just what an outstanding author he was.

4 star

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