The Moon and Sixpence: Somerset Maugham

Accepting my friend’s recommendation, I read Somerset Maugham’s The Moon and Sixpence. I hadn’t read Maugham before, didn’t know what he writes about, I didn’t read the backcover of the book, so I didn’t know what to expect from the book. This was probably good for me, because I was pleasantly surprised by the book.

The first thing that took me was the writing style. The Shakespearean English, the choice of words, long, flowery sentences - the book takes you back to where the action was. My friend calls it a ‘true piece of literature’! What the book is about is immaterial. I don’t think one thinks about the story in Maugham’s books. That does not mean that the story is not worth talking about. In fact, the story had me completely engrossed from the very beginning. The story is unique in itself, simple, yet powerful. What gets you is the characterization.

The main character, Strickland, is so strongly etched that one can start guessing what his reaction will be in certain situations. His wife’s character is so realistic - I guess women haven’t changed much since those days - she is just like any one of us. Maugham is known as the master of characterization and after reading this book, I realized what that meant.

More than the story, more than the characterization, what I personally found engaging was the narration. The story is peppered with generous amount of soliloquy of the narrator, in which he puts forth philosophy of life in his own terms. These paragraphs are interesting and thought-provoking. I often found myself putting the book down and pondering over what I had just read. The story of the doctor in Alexandria and his friend is so strikingly relevant even today. We, city dwellers especially, should stop and think about the narration that follows this story.

This is not intended to be a book review; one cannot review a classic. Reviewing Maugham’s work does not serve any purpose. No one is going to pick up a Maugham book depending on some review. This is penning down my thoughts about what I felt about The Moon and Sixpence. If you are one of the rare species like me who hasn’t tried Maugham’s books, I urge you to pick up one now.