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Collected Short Stories: Volume 1 (Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics) Paperback – September 1, 1992


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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Fascinating tales, sharply revealed characters, a fine narrative craft" -- J.B. Priestley "He was a superb storyteller - one of the very best in our language - who wrote with a wordly, sardonic understanding of the human condition. Writing was his life; everything else was secondary to it" Daily Mail --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

W. Somerset Maugham was born in 1874 and lived in Paris until he was ten. He was educated at King's School, Canterbury, and at Heidelberg University. He afterwards walked the wards of St. Thomas's Hospital with a view to practice in medicine, but the success of his first novel, Liza of Lambeth (1897), won him over to letters. Something of his hospital experience is reflected, however, in the first of his masterpieces, Of Human Bondage (1915), and with The Moon and Sixpence (1919) his reputation as a novelist was assured.

His position as one of the most successful playwrights on the London stage was being consolidated simultaneously. His first play, A Man of Honour (1903), was followed by a procession of successes just before and after the First World War. (At one point only Bernard Shaw had more plays running at the same time in London.) His theatre career ended with Sheppey (1933).

His fame as a short-story writer began with The Trembling of a Leaf, sub-titled Little Stories of the South Sea Islands, in 1921, after which he published more than ten collections.

W. Somerset Maugham's general books are fewer in number. They include travel books, such as On a Chinese Screen (1922) and Don Fernando (1935), essays, criticism, and the self-revealing The Summing Up (1938) and A Writer's Notebook (1949).

W. Somerset Maugham became a Companion of Honour in 1954. He died in 1965.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (September 1, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140185895
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140185898
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #256,155 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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The end of his stories feels complete and absolute.
L. Dann
This was the first of his works that I have ever read, and it was an absolute pleasure.
Strega Nona
Maugham has written some of the finest short stories ever written.
A. Lucas

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

58 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Guillermo Maynez on February 20, 2001
Format: Paperback
The first of four volumes of the collected short stories of Somerset Maugham is a glimpse of what is to come. A fine, detached, subtle but always unsparing observer of human nature, Maugham tells us stories about human weakness with a humorous, at the same time cynical and compassionate tone. Maugham expects very little from humans, and so, when they do sublime and even heroic things, it is all the more suprising. Perhaps the contemporary word which can best describe his attitude towards his characters is "cool". We humans are a mix of perversion, weakness, solidarity and real goodness. Maugham knows. So he is always willing to forgive his characters, as long as they know that their actions will have irremediable consequences. Hard but touching, Maugham sees the world from afar, from the internal wisdom which lets him know that nothing is too bad and nothing is too good.
The tales I liked the most are "Rain", about the unlikely relationship between a couple of puritan missionaries and a prostitute, "Before the party", about terrible marital secrets revealed right before an important party, and, above all, "The fall of Edward Barnard", simply a masterpiece of storytelling. First time I read it, I decided to become Edward Barnard myself. Go figure.
Maugham's style is anything but experimental. He is not trying to find a voice: he has one and he's pretty much sure about its value. And he's right. The way he uses words is the exact measure of craftmanship: not one word is missing, not one is futile. Precision, concision, wisdom, irony and humanism: the best mix for a reading. After you finish this, you'll go to the other three volumes, little by little, enjoying every story.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 20, 1998
Format: Paperback
W. Somerset Maugham in his always fascinating short stories explores such a variety of relational scenarios with "disinterested curiosity" as to leave this reader breathless with awe. His characters murder, suicide, go mad, con, spy and even (remember he was writing in the early part of the century) commit incest. No situation eludes or escapes him. His genius is to make it all sensible and plausible, even prosaic, a truth we all know. Unrivaled in breadth, depth, brevity, tightness of composition and humor. Not for the faint hearted.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Strega Nona on December 21, 2002
Format: Paperback
I've only just discovered the wonders of W. Somerset Maugham. This was the first of his works that I have ever read, and it was an absolute pleasure. There are other reviewers on these pages who are more knowledgeable and better critics than I, so I am just going to tell you how much I enjoyed this particular compilation. Every story was a treasure. Every single character was so well drawn, that for the first time in a long time I found myself empathising with these people, loving them, hating them, lamenting for them and genuinely caring about what happened to them.
Every story started off in a fairly prosaic, nondescript fashion. But every story had me hooked by at least the first page. Sometimes they unfolded as funny stories, other were tales about how an individual's world had changed catastrophically. I never got bored, and the writing was never predictable, Maugham always had a surprisingly poetical observation to make that would send me into raptures. This is truly a writer of sensitivity and talent. I can honestly say that I have been searching for a writer of this calibre for a long time. If you care anything at all about the amazing stories that ordinary, little people have, then read this book and Maugham's other works. He truly is a master.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By L. Dann on April 27, 2002
Format: Paperback
That Maugham was an inveterate snob was at first a surprise to me. His stories are filled with sensitivity for the indigenous people of what we now call third world countries.
He managed to convey this without any political agenda or attempt to idealize the 'natives.' As far as the British colonials, he spared nothing, and yet his mockery and exposure of the epitome of `politically incorrect' was hardly a call for colonial overthrow. To the contrary, the calamitous occupiers were more condemned for their vulgarity than for their imperialism. In his personal life he made no bones about his general contempt for our species. Yet as a whole, these stories are often exquisitely, understated works of compassion and tenderness. Is this some kind of Jungian shadow?
Maugham would despise any such analysis, but the fact remains, these are the best short stories I've ever read. (V.S.Pritchet is second.) Reading Maugham is addictive, his plots and settings are exotic however that Anglo observer is straight up British. My own favorite is "A force of Circumstance." It depicts an almost biological racist reaction and features that universal troublemaker, sexual desire. His most famous, "Rain" is also a winner. Many people weigh in at the "Three Fat Women from Antibes." He is merciless in all of these and the twists in plot are simply brilliant. I only wish I could find some hidden treasure of ones I haven't read. Basically, I'm not a fan of the short story form, Maugham's writing is an exception. The end of his stories feels complete and absolute. He embodies what he is- a story teller. No postmodern 'suggestions of a resolution that cheats the reader. Furthermore, they're incredibly well written and (a feature that seems out of date) interesting. To paraphrase, you can't stop at one.
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