The Moon and Sixpence by W Somerset Maugham

An enjoyable novel, but flawed. Maugham’s great strength is his ability to write aphoristic, clever, declaratory sentences. But his weakness is his complete failure to write convincing female characters, at least in this book.

The story concerns a fictional painter called Charles Strickland, based on Paul Gauguin, who abandons his comfortable middle class life in London and ‘drops out’ to become a painter in Paris. He then goes to live in Tahiti, where he lives in extreme poverty before dying of leprosy. He is sociopathic and entirely unsympathetic as a character, consumed by his artistic mission.

The narrator is a writer, who observes Strickland but is never a friend, as Strickland has no friends.

It is a well-paced, very sophisticated novel but the female characters are unconvincing and serve only as illustrations of the effects of Strickland’s strange charisma.

A pleasant holiday diversion but a bit dated, truth to tell.


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