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Cakes and Ale Paperback – December 5, 2000
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"Maugham is a catty delight." --The Boston Globe
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Top Customer Reviews
Well, I haven't read much of Maugham's work, but what I have read concerns people whose actions and motives are mysterious to others. You can't very well preserve the aura of mystery around a character if the author knows everything the character thinks and does, can you? (Well, you can - see "Anna Karenina," for instance - but it's a difficult trick at best.) Much easier to give yourself a first-person narrator who can try very hard to understand your hero and fail, thus preserving the intrigue. That's what young Ashenden does here for the fascinating Rosie Driffield.
Everybody who knows Rosie loves her, in one way or another; some from afar, some (including Ashenden, Maugham's alter ego) from a good deal closer. Those who don't know her, on the other hand, hold her in contempt. Which wouldn't be all that important except that her husband, Edward Driffield, shortly emerges as one of the most important of the late-Victorian novelists. At that point, Rosie, a former barmaid, becomes a serious blot on Edward's reputation by her birth and background alone - bad enough when she's sleeping with every slightly interesting man who comes her way, worse after other developments ensue.
Ashenden tells us all this from a remove of several decades, long after Rose and Edward have both departed from the scene.Read more ›
Several things are going on in CAKES AND ALE. One is the real history of Edward Driffield (whose stature and career bear something of a resemblance to Thomas Hardy, who died in 1928), and the narrator's own interlinked coming of age. Then there is the narrator's scathing look at literary society and the machinations by which critical success and public favor are won. He drops a lot of industry insider jokes, and several actual personages are discussed, but he also returns to the eternal writers' theme of who among them will be read past their deaths. Lastly, the sharp contrast between Victorian life and 20th century existence emerges as a dramatic theme; there is the sense that those with one foot in each culture will never be able to fully absorb the rapid change in mores and fashions. The only figure who floats across the divide is the person who from the outset bucked convention of any kind, Rosie.Read more ›
The narrator (Willie Ashenden, modelled after the author, a medical student turning into a writer) is mainly observant and doesn't influence the events taking place: The origins and later success of the great writer Edward Driffield and the touching portrait of his first wife, Rosie.
Well crafted. I genuinely enjoy Maugham's style. It seems every author, at some point, is compelled to write about writing. Cakes and Ale is such a novel. It is the reconstruction of an author's life after his death. An ugly process. In this case, one that replaces the sordid experience of inspiration with the conformity of societal acceptance.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A good review of the variety of life styles of novelists and how the pubic and critics judge their work. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Mary J.
This is Maugham's best. The master craftsman chisels out a novel with his self- deprecatory style, his cynicism, and his creation of the unforgettable Rosie.Published 7 months ago by Subba Rao
Maugham has a unique voice with which he describes characters and narrates plots in such a way that characters and plot merge imperceptibly one into the other, and one never knows... Read morePublished 7 months ago by Nicholas Kadar
I've lost count the of number of times I have read this book over the last four decades and I reckon it's up there with Maugham's best novels - "Of Human Bondage", "The Moon and... Read morePublished 9 months ago by John Fitzpatrick
This book is awfully British in tone and texture, as it should be, I really enjoyed the wonderful story telling ability of Maugham. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Amazon Customer
As I continue to wend my way through the novels of Somerset Maugham, I find this particular story to be one of my favorite. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Alan L. Chase
Fabulous novel--I enjoyed it and was sad when it ended! A must read for anyone who's read Thomas Hardy's work.Published 14 months ago by Dex