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.

7 Responses to “The Moon and Sixpence: Somerset Maugham”

  1. Noboru Suzuki Says:

    I chose Somerset Maughm as my university thesis theme and I am now 53 years old. I was greatly influenced by his philosophy.

    Somerset Maugham seemed to have put more value on realizing one’s deram than on social success like having a beautiful wife and earning lots of money.

    And I also didn’t put much value on social success.

    But now I think social success is also important . Prsuing one’s own dream is also part of life. And social success is also part of life. I think we can pursue both our social succes and our dream.

    One more thing I think now is that why one must leave social success and one’s family to pursue our dream.
    If we really love our family, our family is more precious than anything. Was Somerset Maughm a man who couldn’t get real love all his life?

    I’ d like to know what English people comment on my opinion.

  2. eleni Says:

    The novel is a true, but exaggerated, biography of the French painter Paul Gauguin. He was a stockbrocker and their was a stock market crash so he took the opportunity to pursue a painting career. His wife did not support his decision and left him and took their children to her parent’s house. They divorced in 1885.

    In reality their is no passion so great that one would leave everything so suddenly. The truth is that the opportunity presented itself.

  3. matteopera Says:


  4. vijayakumar Says:

    These were interesting pieces to have read about Maugham. I had been an avid reader of Maugham in my twenties. Now I am 64 years old and was thinking of re-visiting Maugham when I stumbled upon this blog!- Good for me. I can boast of having read almost all of his novels and short stories and a few collections of essays notably “Points of view”. I cannot think of a single dull moment- whether it is Pained Veil, Of Human Bondage or his lesser-known works. It is amusing to reminisce now that during my training as a Railway Signal Engineer, I used to read Maugham in theory sessions conducted by singularly boring lecturers!
    Whatever you may say about Maugham, one cannot call his language flowery. I would even say his works suggest otherwise. His is straight narration devoid of frills and it would be a task to edit out one word he has used! I would agree about his mastery of characterisation and the ease with which he depicts the situations as if he was part of it in most cases
    His philosophy is something that has always influenced me and still is a part of my psyche- including his cynicism. I miss him very much!

  5. luvimin Says:

    I have read one book by Maugham and since then Ive been trying to look for his novels.I haven’t found any of his books in bookstores here in our place,it seemed that he is not a popular author in the Philippines,either that or i just haven’t searched enough.What can i do? I am constrained financially.My first copy was bought on a Used Books,Book Sale.
    I’m vastly entertained by his writing style.I don’t know what that is but i found myself pondering of what I’ve read.He is one of those few writers who can talk to his readers,like he is someone you’d like to call.

  6. jonesdamsel278 Says:

    I have read two books of Somerset Maugham and I think what made him a successful writer among other successful ones is his way to fashion his characters. Every characters that he created are all impressive both from the inside and the outside. I like the way he described very carefully and in detailed the appearances of them, and every face movements at every expression of thinkings and ideas. However, Strickland is really a different character. Like you stated above, he has an unpredictable character and it is what fascinates readers.
    In particular, for Moon and Sixpence, I am really interested in the way Maugham dealt with the conflict between art and money. What he meant in this book is that for anyone who takes efforts to pursuit his/her dream, eventually the results will show themselves. No one, in the beginning, believes that Strickland could succeed. However, now, as everyone can see, he is one of the most famous and talented painters.
    “Theatre” of Somerset Maugham is my recommendation if you haven’t read the book.

  7. Somerset maughm | Consultingaviationservices Says:

    […] The Moon and Sixpence: Somerset Maugham « What I have beenAccepting 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 … I chose Somerset Maughm as my university thesis theme and I am now 53 years old. I was greatly influenced by his philosophy. […]

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