©2008 The Executers of the Estate of W. Somerset Maugham 2008; (P)2014 Audible, Inc.
“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.” Steinbeck
A dreadful misogynist who left his wife and 3 kids without remorse or a smidgen of regret in his mid-40s to pursue the painter's life in Paris, stole the wife of another painter who committed suicide when he rejected her as no longer necessary. Ultimately, he moves to Tahiti to live, paint masterpieces, marry a young native girl and die a leper.
Maugham's interesting study based on the life of the painter Paul Gauguin is partly a mockery of society's willingness to turn sinners into saints and partly a sober look at the artist's lifelong pursuit of "beauty" and its costs to both himself/herself and to loved ones.
I'd recommend it if you like Somerset Maugham, which I do, even though he was somewhat of an old lady in temperament. Warning too: it's pretty sexist -- one example, "Women are strange little beasts,... You can treat them like dogs, you can beat them till your arm aches, and still they love you." He shrugged his shoulders. "Of course, it is one of the most absurd illusions of Christianity that they have souls.... In the end they get you, and you are helpless in their hands. White or brown, they are all the same."
I'd highly recommend The Moon and Sixpence to anyone, particularly those struggling with the dichotomy between great art produced by a less-than-great human being.
Maugham uses a journalistic tone in The Moon and Sixpence to create the idea that the story happened to him just as he tells it. It is not only beautifully written but very convincing. If I didn't know that the story was based on the life of the painter Paul Gauguin and that Maugham did not actually know the artist, I'd believe this is a true story.
My favorite scene was probably Maugham's confrontation with Strickland in his rundown Paris hotel. Maugham goes there full of preconceived notions about what Strickland is doing and finds that not one of them is true. The reality is much worse!
There are so many great scenes, when Stroeve does his utmost to convince his wife to allow him to bring the deathly ill Strickland home to their house. The death of Blanche Stroeve is another powerful scene. The scene when the landlady convinces Strickland to take a native wife. The description by the doctor of Strickland's destroyed masterpiece on the walls of his death hut. And the last scene when Mrs. Strickland and her children discuss the responsibilities of being related to a genius. Very ironic.
Why fool with the title of a masterpiece?
Robert Hardy does a SPECTACULAR job on bringing this powerful and thought provoking novel to life. His characterizations are masterful.
It's not so much a memorable moment as a theme.. How wonderfully revealing this novel is for exposing the things we will sometimes do to one another in order to fulfill our own needs.. And how can it be any other way? We are shown through Maugham's masterful use of the English language how one man's personality points fall somewhere so opposite those whom he comes in contact with on the many spectrum of life. And also how his points on those spectrum determine how his relationships play out and how he effects each person he meets. It is ugly - his truth - but is it truly his fault, being who he is? There are too many memorable moments to name just one. An incredible exploration of the darkness within us all and the overwhelming need for one and all to give of themselves or take for themselves to meet their own own needs of emotional survival. Is Charles Strickland a madman or a genius? You be the judge.
There is a random meeting between the narrator and Strickland that underscores the narrator's assessment of Strickland and his base personality. It is particularly revealing and is focused on his point-blank questioning of Strickland regarding a very serious issue.
It would have to be Charles Strickland, because it would be once in a lifetime to be in the presence of genius or madman and have the opportunity to decide for oneself which of those he truly is.
Well worth the time and money to just put yourself into this story as you listen and to explore where you might come out in the end...
"“I shut my eyes in order to see.” Gauguin"
The name of the book is a reference to a line in Of Human Bondage "so busy yearning for the moon that he never saw the sixpence at his feet."
It is an excellent book that is entertaining, literate and beautiful.
Character Charles Strickland is inspired by Paul Gauguin (7 June 1848 – 8 May 1903) but in reality all the characters in this book are ciphers of humanity's, archetypes, exaggerated in their perspectives and positions; a means to create friction and tension in what is an exploration of art, divinity, and individual social responsibility, to the family, to a culture, and to oneself.
This is not a large book but it achieves a great deal within a few pages and for the period when it was written. Somerset Maugham questions the value of art and the markets that promote it, family and duty, against the fulfilment of one's desires or calling in life, he even questions the cultural values of Europe against a simpler life in the islands, living like a native and dying like a primitive and primordial inhabitant of eden. He discusses the fulfilment of doing and working in something you love just for the love of doing it.
The two main characters are pig headed and determine, the narrator can be bitchy and judgemental, and Strickland is single minded and unpleasant to all, communicating only sparsely in words and fully in paint. The rest represent different facets and obstacles or duties in life. Some might mistake the determination of following a calling as egoism but for some it is just a form of survival
The writer did visit the islands and interviewed people that new Gauguin but this is not a biography by any means, but a work of fiction a very good work of fiction.
If you would like to know more about the life of Gauguin Wikipedia has a fantastically detailed article and substantial collection of photos and reproductions of the artists painting and sculpture.
Gauguin, is considered to be the founder of primitivism in art.
“No one is good; no one is evil; everyone is both, in the same way and in different ways. …”
“It is so small a thing, the life of a man, and yet there is time to do great things, fragments of the common task.”
Paul Gauguin, Intimate Journals, 1903
"Great story - Excellent narrator"
Much of the enjoyment of an audio book lies in the narrator; Hardy Robert was excellent. Each character was brought to life and the ?cast? was easily distinguished from one another by his varied rendition of their voices, which seemed to fit perfectly with my mental image of them.
a great book and great narration by the narrator. he has done a good job.
I really enjoyed the book.
"Not great, apart from the Reader."
I had read some Somerset Maugham short stories before and greatly enjoyed them. Others may, of course, view this story differently, but I found it long, inconsequential, dull and, ultimately, unpleasant. The two stars I offer are in recognition of Robert Hardy's brilliant reading. Had it not been for this, I wouldn't have bothered to persevere. And if, like me, you think Robert Hardy's reading is the only good thing about this Audiobook, try his reading of Evelyn Waugh's 'Vile Bodies' - it happens, also, to be one of my favourite books but Mr Hardy's interpretation of it is brilliant.
"Compelling story, well read"
I agree with the previous reviews, odd though that may seem, as they appear contradictory.
Yes, Robert Hardy reads the story very well. His voice is very suitable.
Yes, the subject of the story is in many ways distressing. It is based loosely on the life of Van Gough. Strickland abandons his wife and children to be a painter. He has no feeling for any other person but is driven by his single minded pursuit of his art. Bad things happen to people he is involved with ( I won't spoil the story for those who don't know it). Eventually he dies in unfortunate circumstances.
Maugham is as always cynical or perhaps realistic about human motivation. However, in the case of Strickland he is perhaps less judgmental. The book raises the question of the value of art; can it be a higher good than mere happiness? Are Strickland's motives actually purer than those people who simply want a comfortable domestic life?
At the same time the narrative is compelling.
I recommend this audiobook.
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