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Cakes and Ale

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  6,036 ratings  ·  526 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 (first published 1930)
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Average rating 3.77  · 
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 ·  6,036 ratings  ·  526 reviews


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Bill Kerwin
Jul 02, 2015 rated it really liked it

Somerset Maugham's Cakes and Ale (“Dost thou think because thou art virtuous there shall be no more cakes and ale?”--Twelfth Night) takes for its theme the doubleness of human character, ranging from the calculated hypocrisy of the “virtuous” (exemplified by literary opportunist and would-be biographer Alroy Kear) to the animal weaknesses of the goodhearted yet unreformable (Rosie, former barmaid and first wife of distinguished novelist Edward Driffield) and finally—and perhaps most interestingl
...more
Cheryl
May 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: vintage, fav-authors
She had the serenity of a summer evening when the light fades slowly from the unclouded sky.

There is something luscious about Maugham's beguiling sentences and vocabulary that had me underlining sentences, journaling through the margins, and circling words. For a Maugham book to overcome the depth and meaning of my favorite ( Of Human Bondage ), will be similar to finding a Cather read that surpasses the intentions within My Ántonia. Still, I tread through a few of his works because one neve
...more
Kim
Feb 19, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook

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
Chrissie
I like this a lot, so four stars is what I shall give it. There is not one measly thing I feel I need to grumble about!

I have narrowed down what I like about the book to three things. These are summarized in the three following paragraphs.

Humor: the book is a satire criticizing the social snobbery of the literary world and high society in London at the turn of the 20th century. The setting is London and Blackstable, Kent, a fictitious town modeled on Whitstable, on the north coast of Kent in sou
...more
Trevor
Jun 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literature
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
Diane Barnes
Apr 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
I love Somerset Maugham, and this one did nothing to change my mind. Good writing and a good story, enjoyment from first page to last.
Werner
Jul 09, 2015 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Maugham fans; students of modern English literature
Recommended to Werner by: It was a common read in one of my groups
Shelves: general-fiction
This particular book was adopted as a common read in one of my Goodreads groups, which is how I came to read it (previously, I'd actually never heard of it). My previous exposure to Maugham's work was only through a couple of his short stories. As an introduction to his long fiction, this novella was perhaps not as successful as might have been wished; I didn't rate it as highly as a couple of my Goodreads friends in the group did.

The Goodreads description for the book is reasonably accurate, th
...more
F.R.
Apr 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Sketchbook
Aug 02, 2015 rated it it was ok
At MOMs Villa Mauresque, 1949, he was ordering diaries, letters, personal papers grilled. Someday there'd be bios, he knew, and he wanted control, if possible, of the content. 20 years earlier he pondered his literary status and the problems of bio writing in this semi-satire, which tweaks the idea of A Literary Reputation. Hadnt Dickens, James, Samuel Johnson and Hardy burnt papers that might stain their Fame? Who has it, who doesn't and how some play the promotion game -- literary teas, salons ...more
Bettie
Description: Cakes and Ale is a 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, loving heroine once gave Driffield enough material to last a lifetime, but now her memory casts an embarrissing shadow ov ...more
Susan
Sep 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This novel was one of the very first I read from the adult section of the lending library, when I was finally allowed to ascend the stairs to what I perceived as, ‘the real books,’ and leave the children’s section behind. W. Somerset Maugham has always remained one of my favourite authors and re-reading this was a delight. It features a returning character; the narrator being William ‘Willie’ Ashenden. Much of this novel is autobiographical and, indeed, Maugham himself always said it was his fav ...more
Haaze
"The writer of prose can only step aside when the poet passes; he makes the best of us look like a piece of cheese."
(W. Somerset Maugham)


Maugham's novel initially seems to focus on the literary world of England. The main character, Ashenden, is connected through space and time with the social world of an ascending author. At first I thought the novel only was a vehicle used by Maugham to criticize the literary world, i.e. the path to fame, who knows who, etc, but I was pleasantly surprised as t
...more
Daniel Villines
Jun 14, 2020 rated it liked it
While there were moments, this is certainly not the best of Maugham’s novels, even though he personally referred to it as his favorite. The story is told in a meandering roundabout way that seems to bank on Maugham skill as a writer to write interesting things even if those things have very little to do with the plot. Maugham leads us through the minutiae of his characters, albeit with a skill that reflects his greatness as a writer, but at times I had to stop and wonder about the point of it al ...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
Lavinia
Nov 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, 2008
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
antiquarian reverie
I was ready to read William Somerset Maugham again and decided on "Cakes and Ale" not knowing what I had in store for me but looking forward to it nonetheless. A couple things; as I read this story I started enjoying it even though he was a tad verbose at times but when I came to the middle part and the last half I was thoroughly enjoying this story and after reading the last paragraph and thinking of it all, I loved it!💕💞 Also if you have not read Maugham yet, I would not start with this one bu ...more
Nigeyb
Oct 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
'Cakes and Ale' is a multi-layered novel that was apparently Maugham’s favourite, and understandably so. It’s a delight from start to finish.

It’s a satire about the then contemporary literary trends but also, in a counter narrative, a study of personal freedom. Both narratives converge upon a recently deceased writer called Edward Driffield, however it is Driffield’s first wife, the guileless Rosie, who is the star of the show. Rosie scandalises her snobbish neighbours who live and breathe Vict
...more
Leslie
Mar 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
2020 reread: Still think it is a great book especially for book-lovers :)
----------------------------------
2013 review:
What a wonderful book! Even though it was written over 70 years ago, so many of Maugham's jabs at writers, critics, and the reading public are still right on the mark. In particular, I smiled in appreciation while reading his description of how writers become what we now call trendy - reminded me a lot of the "Fifty Shades of Gray" frenzy:)
...more
Smiley
May 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, satirical
Second Review

To reread it in search of Hugh Walpole's character as applied to create Alroy Kear, the novel's protagonist.
. . .

First Review

A 3.5 star novel.

One thing I thought while reading this fantastic novel, I had my own respect and admiration to W. Somerset Maugham’s command of words. I mean not all authors could write English sentences delightfully readable like him. Again, loosely based on his life, this book has explored and traced “the fortunes of Edward Driffield and his extraordinary
...more
Mikey B.
Mar 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Page 107 (my book)

“It’s very hard to be a gentleman and a writer.”

In many ways the perfect story! It has twists and turns, a wide variety of characters, and humour sprinkled about.

Some of the story is on the snobbery of the literary world. And more importantly, on accepting people as they are. Rosie is married to a literary figure and is disparaged because of her carrying on with an assortment of other men. Maugham is telling us to let all that be and take her as she is – a fine human being. We
...more
Laura
You may read online here.

Opening lines:
I have noticed that when someone asks for you on the telephone and, finding you out, leaves a message begging you to call him up the moment you come in, and it's important, the matter is more often important to him than to you.


5* The Razor's Edge
5* Of Human Bondage
4* The Painted Veil
4* The Narrow Corner
4* The Moon And Sixpence
3* Liza of Lambeth
3* Ashenden
3* The Magician
3* On A Chinese Screen
2* The Circle - A Comedy in Three Acts
4* For Services Rendered and
...more
Hunter Murphy
Aug 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The more I read Maugham, the more fascinated I am. In this book, he satirizes the "literary life." The book is funny and wicked. The novelist's wife is a great character, as are so many of the other ones. I recognized the writerly types and they were fun to read about in this novel. Plus, Maugham's storytelling ability is so natural that you want to follow him no matter what he does or where he goes. He's a pied piper.

...more
Cphe
May 07, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyed this far more than I expected to. A novel of perception, memories and a marriage. Enjoyed the characters, especially the pompous and crafty Alroy Kear. A somewhat poignant and bittersweet ending to my mind. From the Boxall 1000 list.
Richard Seltzer
Sep 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
The telling of the tale is more important than the tale itself. We're presented with one limited and distorted perspective on top of another, and this shading makes the portrait of the target characters three-dimensional ...more
Lobstergirl
Oct 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: any of various slender long-legged shorebirds (as the willet, yellowlegs, and redshank)
Shelves: fiction

This is a novel that starts out brilliantly and becomes less interesting as the narrative progresses. Purely as a reader, I found the douchebaggish Alroy Kear the most appealing character, and his rivalries with the narrator Ashenden more engaging than the storyline of the author Edward Driffield, so sparely sketched as to be almost a cipher (he is supposedly based on Thomas Hardy), or his voluptuous, spirited, low-class first wife Rosie. This is my first Maugham and his style is quite droll. I
...more
Ava Catherine
Mar 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: src, 2015, britain, classics
Found a beautiful copy in a second hand bookshop and felt like I had uncovered treasure. I love the way Maugham slowly weaves his story together and the biting satire. He is a word wizard. The reader cannot skim a single page-ever.

A fabulous book about writers and publishing, and although it was written over seventy years ago, it is so relevant today.

Primrose Jess
Apr 24, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was a pure delight to read. I loved how the inflections of class, dry wit, and observations encompassed the plot. This caused me to slow my reading, enjoy the story, and savor Maugham's words. For example: "Beauty is that which satisfies the aesthetic instinct. But who wants to be satisfied? It is only to the dullard that enough is as good as a feast. Let us face it: beauty is a bit of a bore." Or "Beauty is perfect, and perfection (such is human nature) holds our attention but for a ...more
Gina
Nov 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Shankar
Jul 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Somerset Maugham has been one of my favourites since my college days. The short stories and the others like Of Human Bondage and Razor's Edge are so vivid in my memory.

This book is similar in its in rendition. Maybe in my long standing loyalty to his style or just the nostalgia of my college days that make me remember these.

Whatever the reason this book about Edward Driffield and Ashenden ( the narrator) is truly and engaging tale. I was pleasantly surprised to read in the GR author profile on
...more
John
Jan 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My first Somerset Maugham book. A wonderful introduction to the authors prose. This satire about class, a thinly disguised description of perhaps Walpole and Thomas Hardy is an amusing read. Rosie, Driffield’s first wife is a free spirit compared to his second wife a snob and control freak trying to glorify his name through untruths.

The description of growing up in the seaside town and then the author going back years later shows him the changes. I liked the way Driffield did a bunk and move to
...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 almost l
...more

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