That was a long time ago, though. So, when I saw Cakes and Ale listed under books published in 1930, I thought, Why not give the guy and another chance and read it for the 1930 Club?
Another book I have already reviewed for 1930 is As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner.
* * *
William Ashenden, a moderately successful writer, unexpectedly hears from Roy Kear, another writer. Although Kear is a perfectly pleasant fellow, Ashenden knows he wouldn’t be hearing from him unless he wanted something. But Kear doesn’t come directly to the point.
Around the same time, Ashenden receives an invitation from Mrs. Driffield, the widow of Ted Driffield, widely considered Britain’s most important late Victorian novelist. He ignores this summons as he doesn’t know Mrs. Driffield. Finally, Kear admits he wants to pick Ashenden’s brain. He is writing an authorized biography of Driffield, and Ashenden knew Driffield and his first wife, Rosie, when Ashenden was a young man. Rosie was a beautiful, vibrant force of nature who was massively unfaithful to Driffield. The second Mrs. Driffield has dragged Ted into respectability and is concerned for his legacy. She wants Kear to leave Rosie out of the biography even though Driffield’s most important work was written during their marriage.
This novel about class snobbery is also a character study of an unusual woman. Because of Rosie’s promiscuity, the novel was highly controversial in its time. I wondered whether Ted Driffield was supposed to be Thomas Hardy and found out that others had supposed that at the time, although Maugham denied it. He did admit that Kear was modeled after Horace Walpole, however.
I enjoyed this novel and am willing to give Maugham another trial. The movie of The Painted Veil that came out a few years ago was beautiful, so I may try it next.