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The moon and sixpence by W. Somerset Maugham
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The moon and sixpence (original 1919; edition 1919)

by W. Somerset Maugham

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2,766473,376 (3.91)198
A British stockbroker abandons his wife and career to pursue a simple life as an artist in Tahiti.
Member:jpmuzzall
Title:The moon and sixpence
Authors:W. Somerset Maugham
Info:New York, N.Y. : Penguin, 1993, c1919.
Collections:Read in 2017
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Work details

The Moon and Sixpence by W. Somerset Maugham (1919)

  1. 10
    A Vagabond Journey around the World by Harry Alverson Franck (Waldstein)
    Waldstein: Chapter 5 - "A Beachcomber in Marseilles" - contains the material on which WSM based Strickland's adventures in chapter 47 of The Moon and Sixpence. See also the 1935 preface to the novel in The Collected Edition where WSM, having been accused of plagiarizing Mr Franck's work, admitted his debt and argued that "books of facts are a legitimate quarry for the imaginative writer". Mr Franck's book is available online.… (more)
  2. 05
    The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand (edwinbcn)
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» See also 198 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 47 (next | show all)
existentialism - the very first 'me generation' and a really fun part about leprosy.
( )
  arewenotmen | Jan 13, 2020 |
I picked up 'The Moon and Sixpence' a few years ago at a library book sale thinking, purely from the cover image and my limited knowledge of when Maugham wrote, that it was a novel about the Pacific in World War II. It turns out I was way off. Which is fine by me since I wasn't eager to read a novel about the Pacific in World War II. I used to pick up any old Modern Library book that still had its dust jacket.

What this novel is is a memoir-biography of the fictional painter Charles Strickland (who is loosely based on Paul Gauguin). The narrator writes from a present where Strickland's paintings, some years after his death, have become popular and influential. The narrator is writing in part to correct the white-washing his family is perpetuating about Strickland and to satisfy his own curiosity about the artist.

The best parts of this novel are the opening chapters that first sum up the current articles and conflicting histories of Strickland's life, complete with citations. Maugham is gleeful in his tearing down of critics, apologists and blowing away the smoke that screens the true character of an artist. In fact, we don't 'meet' Strickland for quite some time. The narrator first goes through his social life as a young novelist, doubtlessly sending-up many people of the day, but I'm not familiar enough with the literary scene in the late-1800s, early 1900s to identify them.

Throughout the book, in fact whenever an important conversation is coming, or a scene is being described, the narrator explains that he wrote all in his own words, because 1. he can't remember verbatim what people said, and 2. many people, especially Strickland himself, lacked the means to express their full meaning in words alone. In one case, an entire episode of Strickland's life is thrown into doubt because the man who told it to the narrator was "doubtless" a liar and likely made the whole thing up. This kept me at a distance as a reader somewhat, but I admired how well Maugham kept up the conceit.

The characters were great, too. Strickland is an awful person, completely unlikable and almost purposely cruel in his actions, but he is vividly drawn. Other characters, from Dirk Stroeve, the kind but belittled man who draws awful "chocolate-box" pictures to Tiare Johnson, a woman "with arms like legs of mutton, her breasts like giant cabbages", are fantastic.

'The Moon and Sixpence' was a novel that I loved reading, line by line it ranks as the best I've read this year, but it just didn't add up to much by the end. A lot of the humor and bite disappeared after Strickland's departure from Paris and the narrator no longer had a first-hand account of the man's actions. ( )
  ManWithAnAgenda | Feb 18, 2019 |
Excerpts from my original GR review (Sep 2011):
- ..What I did particularly like was that the narrative moves briskly, energized by the story's movement from London to Paris and then all about once there, as our narrator keeps up with Strickland. It drags, for me, during the more tedious ramblings in Tahiti. I also like the sub-story of Dirk and Blanche Stroeve, their lives perhaps menaced by the intrusion of Strickland. Here's an instance, I think, where the writer's skill outshines the story. Strickland's eccentricities and abrupt removal from his former life only held traction for a few chapters. Credit to Maugham for keeping me reading beyond this point.
- I had to smirk at the mention of absinthe a few times - the drink du jour of the period, at least in Paris. ( )
  ThoughtPolice | Sep 7, 2018 |
Incredibly stale.
The truly repulsive figure in this book is the narrator.
And he uses the word "bedraggled" four times throughout the book. I did not like it the first time. ( )
  alik-fuchs | Apr 27, 2018 |
This book got a lot more enjoyable when I realized reading on my kindle meant I could highlight parts and write notes such as "asshole!" and "more misogyny" and "OH MY GOD." Maybe this is supposed to be an exploration of genius vs living in society but the uncritical misogyny is just so BORING. Blahdy blahdy blah. ( )
  g33kgrrl | Aug 21, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 47 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (41 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
W. Somerset Maughamprimary authorall editionscalculated
Åhlin, PerCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Feigl, SusanneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kelk, C.J.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Monicelli, GiorgioTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Peccinotti, HarriCover photographsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sandler, PaulineTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wiel, Frans van derTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I confess that when first I made acquaintance with Charles Strickland I never for a moment discerned that there was in him anything out of the ordinary.
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