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Posted January 5, 2010
For me, one of life's pleasures is reading or rereading Somerset Maugham. The luster of his prose never dulls; his ability to capture a character vividly always intrigues. He never does this with anything as prosaic has a physical description or "He Said," but rather by revealing a telling thought or action. Thus, it was with happy anticipation that I opened THE NARROW CORNER.
Once again Maugham carries us to the far corners of the world and introduces rare characters who meet aboard ship, a lugger to be exact. We meet Dr. Saunders, an opium addicted medic, who has lived and practiced in Fu-chou for 15 years. He is an easy man to get along with, observant and non-judgmental. "Right and wrong were no more to him than good weather and bad weather. He took them as they came. He judged but he did not condemn. He laughed."
Saunders is paid a sizeable sum of money to go to Takana to perform surgery on a nearly blind former patient. It turns out to be an incredible journey both on sea and land.
The lugger is a rather sad vessel captained by Nichols, an unsavory character, happy to be escaping from his nagging missus. Saunders finds but one other passenger on board, Fred Blake, a mysterious young man. It seems that Nichols had been retained to take Blake to sea. Following a horrendous storm the ship puts in at a small island, Kanda, formerly a center for spice trade. Here they not only find refuge but the beginnings of a dark drama.
They meet a meager few islanders who are barely making a living, yet seem content with their lot. Among them is a beautiful young woman, Louise. What follows is unexpected emotional upheaval and death.
Maugham sprinkles his narrative with descriptions of the tropical island so vivid that one can almost feel the heat. To read this author is to recognize a master at work, and to read one of his short novels such as THE NARROW CORNER is simply to leave one wanting more.
- Gail Cooke
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Posted March 14, 2010
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From the opening chapter, consisting of a single sentence, until the author's final contemplation regarding the illusory nature of one of his main characters, Maugham draws us into his magical world of the South Pacific. Alternately concealing and revealing, interspersing philosophical wisdom and insight into human nature, one feels compelled to uncover the secrets Maugham has hidden for us in this rare gem.
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