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The Moon and Sixpence (Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin) Paperback – March 1, 1993


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Editorial Reviews

Review

"[A] witty, compelling roman à clef...that mock[s] the way the world makes saints of the sinners who are often its best artists."  -The Boston Globe

"It is very difficult for a writer of my generation, if he is honest, to pretend indifference to the work of Somerset Maugham.... He was always so entirely there."  -Gore Vidal --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Series: Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (March 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140185976
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140185973
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.5 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (166 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,949,000 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

73 of 81 people found the following review helpful By "elljay" on April 28, 2000
Format: Paperback
It has been noted many times that artists are usually not the most pleasant human beings to be around; Maugham's novel is, among other things, a compelling examination of why this is so. The obsessed artist who dominates this book, Charles Strickland (based on the notorious Paul Gauguin), walks away from his cushy middle-class existence in England to pursue his dream to paint, amid frightful poverty, in France. Strickland is an unforgettable character, an inarticulate, brutishly sensual creature, callously indifferent to his fellow man and even his own health, who lives only to record his private visions on canvas.
It would be a mistake to read this novel as an inspiring tale of the triumph of the spirit. Strickland is an appalling human being--but the world itself, Maugham seems to say, is a cruel, forbidding place. The author toys with the (strongly Nietzschean) idea that men like Charles Strickland may somehow be closer to the mad pulse of life, and cannot therefore be dismissed as mere egotists. The moralists among us, the book suggests, are simply shrinking violets if not outright hypocrites. It is not a very cheery conception of humanity (and arguably not an accurate one), but the questions Maugham raises are fascinating. Aside from that, he's a wonderful storyteller. This book is a real page turner.
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40 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on April 24, 2005
Format: Paperback
When he first meets Charles Strickland, a London stockbroker, the young narrator of this novel thinks of him as "good, honest, dull, and plain." When Strickland suddenly abandons his wife and children and takes off for Paris, however, the narrator decides he is a cad. Though he has had no training, Strickland has decided to become an artist, a drive so strong that he is willing to sacrifice everything toward that end. Anti-social, and feeling no obligation to observe even the smallest social decencies, Strickland becomes increasingly boorish as he practices his art. Eventually, he makes his way to Tahiti, where he "marries," moves to a remote cottage, and spends the rest of his life devoted to his painting.

Basing the novel loosely on the life of Paul Gauguin, Maugham creates an involving and often exciting story. His narrator is a writer who feels impelled, after Strickland's death and posthumous success, to set down his memories of his early interactions with Strickland in London and Paris. Because the narrator never saw Strickland after he left Paris, he depends on his meetings with a ship captain and a woman in Papeete for information about Strickland after Strickland's arrival in Tahiti. The ship captain is described as a story-teller who may be spinning tall tales, a constant reminder to the reader that this is fiction, and not a biography of Gauguin.

By depicting Strickland as a "dull, plain" man suddenly gripped by an obsession so overwhelming that nothing else matters to him, Maugham involves the reader in his actions, which even the narrator claims not to understand. The least convincing aspect of Strickland's characterization is the narrator's observation that Strickland is completely indifferent to his wife of seventeen years and his children.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 28, 1999
Format: Paperback
Maugham takes a fascinating look into the life of Charles Strickland, a man who gives up his comfortable life as a stock broker, breaks the social contract, abandons his family, and takes up painting. These changes condemn him to a life of poverty and disdain by most who know him. The story is related by an aspiring writer who never seems to be able to quite get the painter to admit he is either remorseful of all the human wreckage he's left in his wake, or so uncomfortable in this new life that he's sorry for having made such a hash of his it. Despite his lack of satisfactory answers, the writer continues to be fascinated by Strickland, who has found a means of expression that transcends language. Strickland understands the writer well enough, having lived in his culture. The writer, on the other hand, cannot possibly understand Strickland, having never been so passionate about anything in his short life. It is this passion that both draws others to Strickland, and causes him to reject outright everything they hold dear. The book raises several intersting questions: Who makes the social contract anyway, and did Strickland knowingly sign on, or was he simply incorporated into it by society? Would it have been acceptable for Strickland to abandon his family to become a priest, missionary, or some other more acceptable form of aesthete? While the book is loosely based on the life of Paul Gaugin, it is really more about W. Somerset Maugham and his search for beauty and truth. In his fictionalized account of that search, Maugham shows us that while the search may be noble, the journey is not necessarily beautiful to everyone, especially those not involved.Read more ›
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By M. Mueller on January 15, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Maugham gives a subtle, believable portrait of a man driven by his need for artistic creation, a person very unlike ordinary human beings. There is nothing like reading a famous old writer -- the language, the diction, the story development! It was a pleasure to read. Plus, in this case I presume, I learned something about Paul Gauguin.
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