Cakes and Ale
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Cakes and Ale

3.75 of 5 stars 3.75  ·  rating details  ·  3,067 ratings  ·  219 reviews
Cakes and Ale is a delicious satire of London literary society between the Wars. Social climber Alroy Kear is flattered when he is selected by Edward Driffield's wife to pen the official biography of her lionized novelist husband, and determined to write a bestseller. But then Kear discovers the great novelist's voluptuous muse (and unlikely first wife), Rosie. The lively,...more
Paperback, 308 pages
Published December 5th 2000 by Vintage Books (first published 1930)
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The Hobbit by J.R.R. TolkienGone with the Wind by Margaret MitchellThe Grapes of Wrath by John SteinbeckBrave New World by Aldous HuxleyOf Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Kim

Why oh why have I not read anything by Maugham before? Not having done so is my loss, and one which I must continue to remedy without delay.

I decided to read one of Maugham's novels because I knew from Gordon Bowker's biography of George Orwell that Orwell was a great admirer of his writing. This particular novel suggested itself because of its subject (a satire on literary London in the early 20th century) and because it's apparently the novel for which Maugham himself most wanted to be remem...more
Trevor
This book was a pure delight. Maugham is such an interesting writer and although he did not think himself a great writer, I believe he does have his moments of greatness. I loved Of Human Bondage and this one again uses material from his own life yet again – particularly stuff to do with his childhood spent with his vicar uncle and his aunt in the country.

The book starts off with a bit of a pattern to it. The book is written in first person singular – we will talk a bit more about that later –...more
Lavinia
Random reading. I wanted to read Maugham and I chose this one for no particular reason. I was almost tempted to put the book back on the shelf because of the uninspired Romanian translation - Life's pleasures - which sounds totally cheap, but I congratulate myself for checking the English title; at least it sounds interesting :)

I like a good satire every now and then. And this one was absolutely delicious. English society, mannerism, a writer's life, all these covered in witty, sharp and ironica...more
F.R.
I was given this book by a girl I dated a couple of times last year. On our second meeting she brought it along and dropped it into my lap with a casual “I think you’ll like this”. It was a bit of a surprise, as I don’t recall us having any particularly literary conversation the first time we met – and I’m certain that we never discussed Somerset Maugham. Nothing lasting developed between myself and this young lady, but I am thinking of getting in touch with her again to thank her once more – as...more
Gina
Maugham is the perfect summer holiday read. As the back of my '63 edition declares, most accurately, "Of all Somerset Maugham's novels Cakes and Ale is the gayest."
Light, rude, witty and snobbish; I put it right up there with his collections of short stories.
Here's my favorite passage:

"The wise always use a number of ready-made phrases (at the moment I write 'nobody's business' is the most common), popular adjectives (like 'divine' or 'shy-making'), verbs that you only know the meaning of if you...more
K.D. Absolutely
Mar 08, 2010 K.D. Absolutely rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 501 Must Read Books, 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die
Shelves: 501, 1001-core
Cakes and Ale: or, the Skeleton in the Cupboard is a light but fascinating read. The story is about Rosie Driffield, the sexually-liberated first wife of the British author, Edward Driffield. What made this novel controversial during its first publication in 1930, was that people said that the character of Edward Driffield is actually the novelist Thomas Hardy (Far From the Madding Crowd, Tess of the d'Ubervilles, Jude the Obscure, etc). So what? Answer: Rosie Driffield had an affair with the na...more
Lisa
The last sentence on the back of the Penguin Classic jacket cover of this book reads, "A controversial novel when it was published, Cakes and Ale brings us a heroine so sensual and modern that she's still able to raise an eyebrow today." Unfortunately, the reader doesn't get to the sensual, controversial part of the novel until over 200 pages into it. The rest of the book is about a writer writing in England. It is well done but I would only recommend it to those, like myself, who are Anglophile...more
Sarah
I love books about sluts. And Rosie Driffield was a big ol' slut. Everyone who knows Rosie loves her. Everyone that doesn't know her hates her. She's a former barmaid and very much known for her promiscuity. Rosie slept with nearly every man that she met if she took the slightest liking to him, and she didn't feel even remotely bad about it. When Willie Ashenden was a boy, Rosie and her husband Edward befriended him. Many years later, he is asked to give his own personal recollections of Mr. Dri...more
Ray Campbell
I have read lots of books I've loved, but few have had the influence "The Razor's Edge" has had on me. W. Somerset Maugham really struck me and I've returned to Larry Darrell a half dozen times - like an old friend. I've also enjoyed Maugham's short stories and the movie adaptation of The Painted Veil. So, his work is always on my list of books to read. I picked up "Of Human Bondage" and "Cakes and Ale". "Cakes and Ale" being a shorter book, I thought I'd knock it out before beginning the larger...more
Qnpoohbear
William Ashenden, the narrator of the story, is contacted by an old acquaintance Alroy Kear. out of the blue. Ashenden known Roy well enough to know that Roy must want something. Roy is a successful author while Ashenden's own books have largely been overlooked by the critics and forgotten by the public, but that's all right with him. He never desired fame, unlike the bestselling Roy. When Ashenden finally discovers what it is Roy wants, he finds he has a dilemma. Roy Kear has been asked by the...more
John
CAKES AND ALE is quite stuffy--even for a British novel written in the 1930's--and one would quickly grow tired of reading it were it not so brilliantly executed. In it, Maugham expertly portrays a vast palette of human emotion without ever resorting to so much as a hint of melodrama. It's very cynical, but rich in comedic undertones. All the characters feel incredibly real, and Maugham discovers sympathy for them in many unexpected--and, for the time, daring--places. It's also an interesting ta...more
Lede
Subjective, therefore sentimental and sweet combined with bitter and resentful. I would of loved this as a straight forward fictional book, however it's not.
Kim
"Cakes and Ale: or, the Skeleton in the Cupboard" is a novel by British author William Somerset Maugham published in September 1930. Some things in Maugham's own life remind me of things in the life of his narrator in "Cakes and Ale." They were both raised by their uncle, they both trained as doctors, they both became authors. Maugham was among the most popular writers of his era and reputedly the highest paid author during the 1930s. One of the things that I found very interesting about Maugha...more
Lilian
I read this book for for the Slaves of Golconda bookclub. Written in 1930, it is narrated by the midlist writer William Ashenden.

As a young man in the 1890's, Ashenden knew the British literary icon, Edward Driffield (ostensibly based on Thomas Hardy, which Maugham denied). At that time Driffield was a little known working class writer married to Rosie, an earthy sexually promiscuous woman. Later in life, Driffield rose to fame and acclaim and a second wife. Now, after Driffield's death and bein...more
Wayne
Mar 22, 2013 Wayne rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: one learns much from a failure
Recommended to Wayne by: Maughams's wonderful short stories...this is not a short story,alas!!
Oh,dear !!! Willie, oh dearie me!!!!

There is something so so dated about this novel.
OR is it just the embarrassment of something badly written.
Just as there was with "The Moon and Sixpence".
That at least hung together.

I've heard that this novel is about a new wife attempting to make sure that in her famous dead husband's biography the former wife will be hopefully deleted.
That is certainly there.
But so are several other strands.
Maugham says the novel is about a writer's lot.
Elsewhere he says...more
Amanda Nelson
So, Cakes and Ale happened. Let's talk about this. It's about an author who is old and who is having flashbacks of his younger days when he hung out with ANOTHER author who has recently died. The dead guy was considered a Super Genius and The Last Great Victorian and whatnot and WAS PROBABLY Thomas Hardy even though Maugham was all what? I did no such thing. This character has nothing to do with Thomas Hardy even though he has pretty much everything in common with Thomas Hardy except POSSIBLY ha...more
Antonomasia
[4.5] After some terribly serious books, a palate cleanser, as it were. ("As it were" is a bit of a Maugham-ism. Also, incidentally, a Hunter Thompson-ism.)

This book has the same crisp and dry clarity and wit I saw in The Moon and Sixpence (1919), honed and polished over ten subsequent years of writing. A light fun read in a way I just don't expect of classics. (The artists – or rather writers – in this book aren't the tortured sort found in The Moon.)

Cakes and Ale's main ingredients (sorry) are...more
Shawn Thrasher
This was a scandalous book in its day, not because of the plot - which is sexy as hell - but because Maugham based one character on the revered English writer Thomas Hardy, and another character on one of his best friends Hugh Walpole - and both portrayals were really lethal and catty. This is a book where there are essentially two plots woven together in time and space, connected by a narrator in the present who is remembering the past. Roy Kear, a respected, dull, but socially ambitious writer...more
Shriya
My year could NOT have started with a better book! Ah! What a book! And what a man! In fact, I was surprised that this was my first Maugham ever considering my history with classics but well...better late than never!

Yes, I know you want a review and I am talking way too much. So, without further ado:
Meet Rosie Driffield née Gann, the British version of Holly Golightly, a free spirited barmaid who marries a budding author but is promiscuous enough to start a scandal wherever she goes! Ready to p...more
J.
"One of the difficulties that a man has to cope with as he goes through life is what to do about the persons with whom he has once been intimate, and whose interest for him has in due course subsided."

I Would Go Out Tonight, But I Haven't Got A Stitch To Wear.

At its heart, the main emphasis of Cakes And Ale is a first-love/ older-woman story in the vein of Flaubert's Sentimental Education. But that's the innermost layer of narrative in a structure built up inside brackets and frames, and stori...more
Grizel
This book convinced me of one thing: Maugham is a superlative short-story writer, not-so-superlative a novelist. `Cakes and Ale' is about a woman who has sex with everyone who asks her and, well, that's pretty much it.Obviously, the intention is to portray her as a woman beyond the petty strictures of bourgeois society, but it doesn't really work. She is never allowed to develop a personality beyond that of someone-who-has-sex-whenever-she-wants. Still,being the writer he is, Maugham manages to...more
Ilona

Like any of Maugham's novels Cakes and Ale is a combination of many different stories. It is the story of the youth of Willie Ashenden, the story of a writer (Edward Driffield) and his family and literary life, the story of another writer (Alroy Kear) who is trying to compose the biography of Mr. Driffield and finally this is a story of Rosie, one of the best female characters of this Somerset Maugham (to my opinion). All this stories are closely connected together, the lines of these lives mee

...more
Suzy
I loved this one. Here, the betraying whore character found in many of his works is actually the heroine--giving, innocent, kind. I'm realizing that all of Maugham's works are about transformation--here, Rosie is her promiscuous self throughout, but WE realize who she really is in a poignant surprise near the end of the book (Will I ever read a Maugham that doesn't surprise me? I will be very disappointed if so).

But the real transformation in each of his works isn't of the characters, or the plo...more
Nicole
The first Maugham I read was "The Painted Veil". After the seriousness of "Veil", I was happy to read something lighter from this writer. While I use the word light to describe it, this is not to say that it is without depth. In fact, it is that very lightness that Maugham acheives depth, much like his heroine Rosie. In this novel, the nicer a description of someone, the less flattering it is to them. Like many of the great English satirists, Maugham can be devistatingly viscious in his portraya...more
Julianne
Okay. This is W. Somerset Maugham's version of "Breakfast at Tiffany's," written about thirty years earlier than Truman Capote's version and set at least thirty years before that. Like "Breakfast at Tiffany's," it is narrated by a writer with a crush on a woman who may or may not be sexually available to him, it skewers the accepted "bourgeois" norms and values of the author's milieu, and most of the action is centered around a blonde, buxom girl (Rosie Gann in Maugham's version, Holly Golightly...more
Annabel
Maugham has always been one of my favorite writers because he's consistently engaging and I like his sentences. Liking someone's sentences may be a bit of a simplistic reason to read them, but that's the only way I can describe why I love Maugham so. He writes really great sentences. And I'm into sentences.

I didn't find out until after I read the book that the two author characters are thinly veiled caricatures of Thomas Hardy and Hugh Walpole; it's interesting, but not necessary to know.

While...more
Pequete
I really liked this book and the way it portraits the snobbery of the English literary society while telling a very touching story at the same time. Very good.
Janet
Oh well, what can I say? It took me one little chapter to get into this one and then I was hooked. What great fun to read! Satire as satire is meant to be, full of the most wicked semi-philosophical transgressions and of course juicy to the core. Even the ending was great: what skeleton in the cupboard indeed!
Kara

I picked this up solely because of the title.

The title comes from Sir Toby Belch arguing with Malvolio that just because Mal has a big ole stick up his butt, doesn’t mean other people can’t have a little fun.

The narrator and most of the characters here are published authors and all spend a great deal of time smiling at each while stabbing pointy little verbal knives in each other’s backs out of professional jealously.

I don’t know if this speaks more to the author’s writing ability or to Engla...more
Ruth
This was another book club book, and I really liked it, partly because is set in Whitstable in an enjoyably detailed way for someone who knows it - I did find myself turning into a local history nerd, to the point of Googling the location of the original station (trying to guess which pub was the scene of a certain amount of debauchery).
At times a waspish bitchiness pokes through, but on the whole I loved the narrator's clear-eyed observations of the faddish hypocrisy of the literary world. And...more
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William Somerset Maugham was born in Paris in 1874. He spoke French even before he spoke a word of English, a fact to which some critics attribute the purity of his style.

His parents died early and, after an unhappy boyhood, which he recorded poignantly in 'Of Human Bondage' , Maugham became a qualified physician. But writing was his true vocation. For ten years before his first success, he alm...more
More about W. Somerset Maugham...
Of Human Bondage The Razor's Edge The Painted Veil The Moon and Sixpence Theatre

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