Room, as five-year old Jack calls home, is the only place he's known. But for his mother, it's been her prison since she was abducted seven years ago....moreRoom, as five-year old Jack calls home, is the only place he's known. But for his mother, it's been her prison since she was abducted seven years ago. The story is compelling--a mother's love creates a world for her son in a single room, even as she grows more and more desperate.
Yet, I could not connect with the narrative. Told in the voice of Jack, the story felt contrived. It never felt like the story of a five-year old, but the story of a five-year old as told by an adult. Every few pages, I could forget what seemed to me a forced construction, but without fail, something Jack would say or observe would strike me as untrue to a five-year old's perspective.
Perhaps this narrative device helped lighten a story whose subject matter was intensely depressing, but ultimately, it seemed to sacrifice the integrity of the story. (less)
An interesting concept for a book: a Victorian lady offering her thoughts on an assortment of topics from the scatological to the eschatological. But...moreAn interesting concept for a book: a Victorian lady offering her thoughts on an assortment of topics from the scatological to the eschatological. But since the snippets were pulled from letters and other sources, the organization felt forced, and context was lost at many points. Despite the few tantalizing paragraphs here and there, overall it was a dull collage of out-of-context ideas and advice. (less)
"It's very hard to be a gentleman and a writer," observes Edward Driffield's second wife, Amy. But she's done everything she can to ensure her husband...more"It's very hard to be a gentleman and a writer," observes Edward Driffield's second wife, Amy. But she's done everything she can to ensure her husband is seen as both, perhaps even more so now that he's dead.
Cakes and Ales is a biting satire about the cult of the writer and how everyone--from the literary scout and critic to the opinionated public and often the writer himself--play their part to create the myth of genius. Alfred Kear, eager to burnish his own literary credentials any way he can, has been chosen by Amy Driffield to write her late husband's biography. The rub, however, is that Amy requires Kear to omit everything to do with Driffield's first wife Rosie--beautiful, unfaithful and Driffield's undeniable muse.
Now in search of information about Driffield's early life, Kear turns to William Ashenden who as a young boy knew Driffield and Rosie. It's from Ashenden, the novel's narrator, that we receive a more genuine depiction of Driffield and what's supposed to be a more nuanced explication of Rosie and her infidelities.
Perhaps Maugham hoped the reader would at least understand, if not sympathize with the uninhibited, in-love-with-life Rosie. But the lofty motives ascribed to her extra marital dalliances fall flat--especially when she leaves her husband to grieve alone the night her son dies. Of course, it's easy to imagine finding self-destructive solace, but the prosaic description of a free-spirited girl who loves to love is not a sufficient explanation for many of Rosie's escapades.
However, what Maugham does accomplish is a female character who successfully evades the angel-whore designation by distancing her sexual adventures from her generally engaging character. But most enjoyable is the contrast between Kear's desire for a sanitized, larger-than-life portrait of a Victorian author and Ashendon's own meandering and humble recollection of Driffield, proving perhaps that there just may be such a thing as a gentleman and a writer.