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Collected Short Stories Volume 1 [Paperback]

W. Somerset Maugham
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Dec 4 2001 Vintage Classics
This classic collection of stories moves from England, France and Spain to the silver sands of the South Pacific. It includes the famous story "Rain", the tragedy of a narrow-minded and overzealous missionary and a prostitute, and "The Three Fat Women of Antibes", an extravagantly sardonic tale of abstention and greed, as well as a host of other brilliant tales.

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"Fascinating tales, sharply revealed characters, a fine narrative craft" -- J.B. Priestley "He was a superb storyteller - one of the very best in our language - who wrote with a wordly, sardonic understanding of the human condition. Writing was his life; everything else was secondary to it" Daily Mail

About the Author

William Somerset Maugham was born in 1874 and lived in Paris until he was ten. He was educated at King's School, Canterbury, and at Heidelberg University. He spent some time at St. Thomas' Hospital with the idea of practising medicine, but the success of his first novel, Liza of Lambeth, published in 1897, won him over to literature. Of Human Bondage, the first of his masterpieces, came out in 1915, and with the publication in 1919 of The Moon and Sixpence his reputation as a novelist was established. At the same time his fame as a successful playwright and writer was being consolidated with acclaimed productions of various plays and the publication of several short story collections. His other works include travel books, essays, criticism and the autobiographical The Summing Up and A Writer's Notebook. In 1927 Somerset Maugham settled in the South of France and lived there until his death in 1965

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IT was nearly bed-time and when they awoke next morning land would be in sight. Read the first page
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Writer's Writer Dec 21 2002
I've only just discovered the wonders of W. Somerset Maugham. This was the first of his works that I have ever read, and it was an absolute pleasure. There are other reviewers on these pages who are more knowledgeable and better critics than I, so I am just going to tell you how much I enjoyed this particular compilation. Every story was a treasure. Every single character was so well drawn, that for the first time in a long time I found myself empathising with these people, loving them, hating them, lamenting for them and genuinely caring about what happened to them.
Every story started off in a fairly prosaic, nondescript fashion. But every story had me hooked by at least the first page. Sometimes they unfolded as funny stories, other were tales about how an individual's world had changed catastrophically. I never got bored, and the writing was never predictable, Maugham always had a surprisingly poetical observation to make that would send me into raptures. This is truly a writer of sensitivity and talent. I can honestly say that I have been searching for a writer of this calibre for a long time. If you care anything at all about the amazing stories that ordinary, little people have, then read this book and Maugham's other works. He truly is a master.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The greatest of snobs excoriates snobbery. April 27 2002
By L. Dann
That Maugham was an inveterate snob was at first a surprise to me. His stories are filled with sensitivity for the indigenous people of what we now call third world countries.
He managed to convey this without any political agenda or attempt to idealize the 'natives.' As far as the British colonials, he spared nothing, and yet his mockery and exposure of the epitome of `politically incorrect' was hardly a call for colonial overthrow. To the contrary, the calamitous occupiers were more condemned for their vulgarity than for their imperialism. In his personal life he made no bones about his general contempt for our species. Yet as a whole, these stories are often exquisitely, understated works of compassion and tenderness. Is this some kind of Jungian shadow?
Maugham would despise any such analysis, but the fact remains, these are the best short stories I've ever read. (V.S.Pritchet is second.) Reading Maugham is addictive, his plots and settings are exotic however that Anglo observer is straight up British. My own favorite is "A force of Circumstance." It depicts an almost biological racist reaction and features that universal troublemaker, sexual desire. His most famous, "Rain" is also a winner. Many people weigh in at the "Three Fat Women from Antibes." He is merciless in all of these and the twists in plot are simply brilliant. I only wish I could find some hidden treasure of ones I haven't read. Basically, I'm not a fan of the short story form, Maugham's writing is an exception. The end of his stories feels complete and absolute. He embodies what he is- a story teller. No postmodern 'suggestions of a resolution that cheats the reader. Furthermore, they're incredibly well written and (a feature that seems out of date) interesting. To paraphrase, you can't stop at one.
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By Koonu
His short stories whetted my appetite for good reading as I was learning the subtle nuances of English language as an adolescent in 1970s. Like healthy food healthy books also need some effort at resisting junk while cultivation of a taste is ongoing in one's reading adolescence. English was only a second language for me after Oriya those days. One of my favorites is "Bookbag", where a British Colonial Civil Servant survives his outpost reading books and late delivery periodicals in chronological order.(Like watching a video tape of a soap opera in right order) I sought out all his books as well as books about him. One of them called "Somerset and all the Maughams" is written by his nephew Robin Maugham. In that he also mentions about a maternal uncle of Somerset Maugham, a black sheep named Charles Snell, who died an untimely death in Cuttack,a town in eastern India where I happened to spend a good part of my youth. I found his tomb stone in a cemetary known to locals as white mans' burial ground. Each epitaph in that cemetary may as well be spun into a Maugham story. No one, including Times Literary Supplement seemed interested in this kind of trivia when I tried reporting about an author whose books don't seem to sell at Airports or train station bookstores anymore. I think he is one of the most under-rated literary prodigies of last century. Do any English Professors teach his books in a undergraduate class ?
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5.0 out of 5 stars An unmatched short-story writer Feb. 20 2001
The first of four volumes of the collected short stories of Somerset Maugham is a glimpse of what is to come. A fine, detached, subtle but always unsparing observer of human nature, Maugham tells us stories about human weakness with a humorous, at the same time cynical and compassionate tone. Maugham expects very little from humans, and so, when they do sublime and even heroic things, it is all the more suprising. Perhaps the contemporary word which can best describe his attitude towards his characters is "cool". We humans are a mix of perversion, weakness, solidarity and real goodness. Maugham knows. So he is always willing to forgive his characters, as long as they know that their actions will have irremediable consequences. Hard but touching, Maugham sees the world from afar, from the internal wisdom which lets him know that nothing is too bad and nothing is too good.
The tales I liked the most are "Rain", about the unlikely relationship between a couple of puritan missionaries and a prostitute, "Before the party", about terrible marital secrets revealed right before an important party, and, above all, "The fall of Edward Barnard", simply a masterpiece of storytelling. First time I read it, I decided to become Edward Barnard myself. Go figure.
Maugham's style is anything but experimental. He is not trying to find a voice: he has one and he's pretty much sure about its value. And he's right. The way he uses words is the exact measure of craftmanship: not one word is missing, not one is futile. Precision, concision, wisdom, irony and humanism: the best mix for a reading. After you finish this, you'll go to the other three volumes, little by little, enjoying every story.
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