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An instinctive and magnificent storyteller, Somerset Maugham was one of the most popular and successful writers of his time. He published seventy-eight books—including the undisputed classics Of Human Bondage and The Razor’s Edge—which sold over 40 million copies in his lifetime.
Born in Paris to sophisticated parents, Willie Maugham was orphaned at the age of ten and brought up in a small English coastal town by narrow-minded relatives. He was trained as a doctor, but never practiced medicine. His novel Ashenden, based on his own espionage for Britain in World War I, influenced writers from Eric Ambler to John le Carr? After a failed affair with an actress, he married another man’s mistress, but reserved his greatest love for a man who shared his life for nearly thirty years. He traveled the world and spoke several languages. Despite a debilitating stutter, and an acerbic and formal manner, he entertained literary celebrities and royalty at his villa in the south of France. He made a fortune from his writing—the short story “Rain” alone earned him a million dollars—yet true critical recognition, and the esteem of his literary peers, eluded him. The life of Somerset Maugham, as told by acclaimed biographer Jeffrey Meyers, is an intriguing, glamorous, complex, and extraordinary account of one of the twentieth century’s most enduring writers.
“Meyers’s portrait of the long-lived Maugham and his tumultuous time is both nuanced and concise, a biography without a wasted word.” —The Washington Post Book World
“Excellent. . . . [W]ell-written, entertaining, and of admirable brevity. . . . Meyers paints a convincing picture of the development of [Maugham’s] complex character.” —The New Criterion
“Maugham is the perfect subject for a biography. . . . Meyers knows how to select his details . . . and arrange them into a well-paced narrative.” —The Philadelphia Inquirer
“Meyers . . . mounts a persuasive defense of Maugham’s art, keenly mapping his influence on V.S. Naipaul, George Orwell, and Paul Theroux.” —The New Yorker