The story of French post-impressionist painter Paul Gauguin is one of the most remarkable tales of an artist that one can contemplate. It fired the imagination of W.S. Maugham to the extent that he wrote this fictionalized account of Gauguin's bizarre, sybaritic life. Although names and nationalities have been changed, there can be no doubt about the real identity of the principle character of this fascinating novel.
Throughout his long life, Maugham was an interested observer of the creative impulse. But he did not attribute this prolific energy merely to the desire of the artist to produce art that satisfied common notions of aesthetic delight. Real artists of genuine ability and intellectual vigor are seldom driven by forces that most people can comprehend. It was this dichotomy between the ordinary and the driven that attracted Maugham. And it was in The Moon and Sixpence that Maugham showed how this tension plays itself out, and how it affects the lives of everyone associated with artists of genius who try to harness the creative demons that drive them.
In place of Paul Gauguin, Maugham presents us with Englishman Charles Strickland, who leads the life of a mundane London stockbroker. He has a wife and two lovely children and enjoys a settled life with the prospect of a prosperous retirement. However, Strickland throws it all over and abandons his family to become an artist in Paris. But that is only the beginning.
In a novel rich with the kind of characters and conversations that only Maugham could conjure up, we follow Strickland's path of hedonism and sheer creative verve as he moves from Paris to Marseilles to Tahiti, where the drama finally plays itself out on a lonely island paradise far from any contact with European civilization.
© and (P)2007 Audio Connoisseur
"[Maugham is] the modern writer who has influenced me the most." (George Orwell)
"An expert craftsman....His style is sharp, quick, subdued, casual."(New York Times)
At first the prose of this book put me off. Not being accustomed to the literary style of years gone by, at first, I did not think I would enjoy the book. However, after listening to about 4 chapters, I did get engrossed in the story which is very loosely based on the life of the painter, Gauguin.
Firstly, Charlton Griffin is amazing as a narrator. His mastery of dialogue and oration truly improves an already great book from Somerset Maugham.
Secondly, the narrative of this book is one that sheds an enlightening (albeit harsh) view on artistry that is, in my experience, quite accurate. Almost too accurate. And self-described artists will find parts of the book titillating, while many others rather uncomfortable and hitting too close too home. Overall, The Moon and Sixpence is a fascinating development of character and life's tribulations.
Thirdly, the book is loosely based on the life of Paul Gauguin. And when you research Gauguin, you will find that Maugham borrowed liberally from elements of his life. This was somewhat disappointing, as it made the narrative feel cheap at some points in the book. However, the mastery of Maugham's words far exceeds any shortcomings in originality.
The story told here is a cover, somewhat, by Maughm about Paul Gaugain. It smears the true life of the artist and reduces it to a one dementional screed about an angry man with no redeeming qualities except a "genius " recognisable by none but a lonely long suffering Dutch painter,
This story does nothing for the legacy of Gaugain's complex life. For instance, his relationship with Van Gough before he left for the South Seas (he had to trek across the ismus of Panama where he contracted syphillis (leprosey in this story)
Gaugain's made many trips from Tahiti to Paris bringing his work and loading up more supplies for his return to the Island paradise.
This is the first story by Maughm for me and I am sorry to say it was a let down.
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