I love the way Maugham depicts the gray and the black side of life as clearly as the whiter shade of life. He is a past master at describing people and their deep innermost thoughts.
Its a story about a middle aged family man Charles Strickland who works as a stockbroker. He is initially depicted in the book as being a "philistine" and being unremarkable. The story proceeds to show how Strickland finds his artistic calling, so to speak. He leaves his family in search of his true passion - painting, and has no remorse about leaving them behind. The story moves ahead to give a glimpse of how his life moves on in the advanced years of his life. The story is spoken from the view of a third person who is also a friend of Strickland's estranged wife. It takes us from countryside England to the streets of France and moves on to Tahiti as Strickland moves from one place to next to find his true passion. Strickland comes across as a person who is quite sensual yet cruel to the point to being devoid of any compassion towards his fellow beings and being particularly cruel with those who especially care for him. The author does an excellent job, through the narrator of the story, of probing into man's deepest anxieties, fears, jealousies and depicts true passion of the very highest level - one that is raw and all-pervading. Strickland continues to devastate people around him - deviates from his originally not uncomfortable path of married bliss with a wife and two children he is devoted to, to philander with the wife of a person who genuinely supported him when he had a life threatening condition, only to leave her too after his original aim of painting her as a model is completed. Strickland goes on to paint masterpiece after masterpiece... some of the best of his generation. Critically acclaimed by critics and admirers alike.
An intriguing novel that makes one sit up and think. Though the book is in a lot of ways a story about a person who has nary a care for anything apart from his passion and deliberately shuns all kinds of comfort in his life, it does teach us good lessons on what true passion and a drive to do something can really do in one's life... hopefully, without the non-compassion that Strickland showed.