(Actually, my interest was piqued before that bookstore trip...I was at a book club meeting and two of the girls were talking about MOM, except they weren't...they were talking about MAUGHAM which apparently has a nice handful of silent letters similar to the name VAUGHAN. Who knew? Everyone but me, of course. Welcome to my universe.)
So then, who is this Maugham fellow? According to the Wiki:
- Reputedly the highest paid author of the 1930s (wow!)
- His mother had tuberculosis, for which her doctor prescribed childbirth (sheesh.)
- He developed a stammer after his parents died when he was 8 (aww...)
- He was a British spy during WWI and went on special mission in Russia (exciting!)
- He didn't lead a very happy life, esp. regarding family/loved ones (poor guy)
The two things that fascinated me the most about this particular title both happened to be related to the times. First, the peek at life in Colonial Era Hong Kong and the cholera epidemic (not that I'm so familiar with non-Colonial HK, but still, it was an interesting perspective) and second, the social expectations on marriage at the time. Having so many limitations on socially acceptable behavior, and so few viable options for women regardless of the circumstance, certainly adds a dynamic to a story that is absent (or difficult to recreate) in modern fiction.
Now, I can't say that I loved any of the characters, or even that I truly sympathized with any of the characters. They all had faults, and most had made bad choices, but I was truly absorbed in their thoughts and actions. There were so many different personalities. Kitty journeyed from an extremely shallow existence to some actual thought, while her husband was a much more intelligent, complex person that ended up finding that he'd made a very silly choice. This was a book that I actually didn't want to put down until I'd finished it. More Maugham is definitely in my future.
(By the way, is there a female word equivalent for cuckold? ...Do we have a word that defines a woman whose husband commits adultery? I'm not one to usually be all up in arms about women's rights, but this word has always bugged me for that very reason.)
World English Dictionary
1. a man whose wife has committed adultery, often regarded as an object of scorn
2. ( tr ) to make a cuckold of
[cukeweld, from Old French cucuault, from cucu cuckoo; perhaps an allusion to the parasitic cuckoos that lay their eggs in the nests of other birds]