by W. Somerset Maugham
Recommend to lovers of literary classics and more cerebral fiction.
Reading this story felt rather like comfort food. Not because of the subject matter. The story had very little to do with Christmas. But because it’s just so pleasing to fall into the written arms of someone who knows what they’re doing with their pen and does it well.
The conceit of the story is rather clever. It follows Charley who decides to go to Paris for the holidays rather than with his parents to their normal family haunt. Through Charley we touch several different story lines. There is the story of Charley’s childhood friend Simon, who Maugham might have characterized as a socialist but who displays un-apologetically the darker traits of Marxism. There is Lydia, a displaced Russian refugee, who is the tragic victim of Marxism in action, and through Lydia, we get the story of her husband who is a murderer without conscience.
In the usual Maugham fashion, the story is littered with pertinent social commentary (possibly still applicable today), and it is woven together with an appreciation for art. Maugham contrasts his characters carefully, selecting them from all walks of life, and he treats each of them with respect— only laughing at them when they would laugh at themselves.
If you haven’t discovered this talented man’s voice yet, I highly recommend you find one of his books.