I think I’m turning into something of a Somerset Maugham fan. I’ve yet to read anything truly bad by him. I bought [b:The Painted Veil|99664|The Painted Veil|W. Somerset Maugham|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1320421719s/99664.jpg|1069201] some years back on a whim from a charity shop, and it took me a couple of years to get around to reading it. When I did, I enjoyed it, and liked his style. Since then I’ve read various of his books.
This is more of a novella, or a very long short story. As the books of his I’ve read so often seem to do, Up at the Villa involves members of the smart set of his time, the kind who live in villas in Italy on small bequests or inheritances; that’s fine by me – write what you know, they say, and it seems Maugham did…
As usual, then, it was difficult at first to sympathise with the characters, who live in a world that has disappeared; yet, at the same time, the world is not that different to the Chelsea set of the 1960s, or the Beautiful People of the 1970s. I’m sure you can supply your own denizens of some belle monde for each decade.
When the narrative kicked in, I was hooked. To relate some of the plot of such a small novella would be to give too much away. To say it is a tale of love and passion, and honesty and guilt, gives some of the flavour. What happened in the story caught me somewhat by surprise, and the narrative twist intrigued me and kept me reading. The story was crisp, well-crafted. and well-formed.
If you haven’t read Somerset Maugham, but wonder if you should dip your toe in the dazzling Tuscan swimming pool of his writing, this book would be a good place to start.