Friday, 22 March 2013

Somerset and All the Maughams






Maugham, Robin. Somerset and All the Maughams. London: Heinemann, 1966.


Written by W. Somerset Maugham's nephew, this book contains a lot of moving passages on a more private Willie (as I will call him in order to differentiate him from his nephew, the author of this book). The book is separated into two main parts, the first of which is an account of the genealogical study of the Maugham family that Robin carried out. It is interesting for those who are intrigued by such topic. It falls short when Willie's name is dropped here and there solely for the purpose of relating the story to him.

The second part focusses more on Willie and his life. After reading Pfeiffer's portrayal of Willie, Robin's Willie is much more personal and certainly Willie put up fewer layers of mask in front of his nephew. It is a pity that Robin did not write more of Willie's early years. His account of Willie's old age and declining health is truly moving, of how Willie was torn between the desire for death and the instinctive struggle for life, which reminds me of one of his short stories, "The Lotus Eater". It must be daunting for one who sees himself so clearly but yet is unable to act upon his wisdom, but such is the inevitable human struggle that Willie has been showing to the world in his work.
This is a beautifully written book with abundant illustrations.



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