Maugham spent the winter months of 1919 travelling 1500 miles up the Yangtze river. Always more interested in people than places, he noted down acute and finely crafted sketches of those he met on countless scraps of paper. In the resulting collection we encounter Western missionaries, army officers, and company managers who are culturally out of their depth in the immensity of the Chinese civilisation. Maugham keenly observes, and gently ridicules, their dogged and oblivious persistence with the life they know.
This is a series of non-fiction vignettes on Chinese life—if you are researching western attitudes to China in the late 19th, early 20th century, perhaps you'll find it useful. But the clichés of thought and action are too embedded and stale to make this book worth listening to. Find Maugham's fiction for a glimpse into his subtle mind and imagination, rather than getting depressed by the lack of understanding here.
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