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Far Eastern Tales

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  578 ratings  ·  44 reviews
Short stories, all born of Maugham's experiences in Malaya, Singapore and other outposts of the former British Empire. Whether portraying a ship-borne flight from a lover's curse, murder in the jungle or the remembered East of a repatriate's suburban home, they reveal Maugham as a shrewd and human judge of character and soul.

Footprints in the Jungle
Mabel
P. & O.
The Door of
...more
Paperback, UK edition, 288 pages
Published September 2nd 1997 by Random House UK (first published October 1921)
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Average rating 4.14  · 
Rating details
 ·  578 ratings  ·  44 reviews


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Julie
Apr 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: british, 20th-century
These tales are quintessential Maugham: eccentric, idiosyncratic, unconventional. Wrapping the package in a colonial setting, he fashions long, lazy afternoons on verandahs, just on the edge of the jungle, with ladies sipping their tonics and gin and gents enjoying their whiskeys; he fashions long, lazy voyages across very calm oceans, always sunlit -- and then conjures a thunderclap, so that you spill your gin; so that the ocean heaves up a bit of menace.

This collection is even steven: half of
...more
Tsung
Nov 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Maugham effortlessly transports us to the exotic Far East, back to the colonial days. For the newcomer, it is an exciting, romantic adventure. To be waited on hand and foot, to control and decide the fate of other human beings, then tea on the lawn in the afternoon followed by tennis in the evening, what could be better? Well, for starters it is better to be a master rather than a servant in the colonial times. Life looks good but then things are never quite what they seem.

Ten short stories set
...more
Michael
Jan 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Somerset Maugham creates for me, the atmosphere of tropical Asia, the intriguing stories that have total plausibility and yet each is contained in just one of 10 short stories. Pure craftsmanship.
Gijs Grob
W. Somerset Maugham has written a lot more than colonial stories, but its these by which he is best remembered. 'Far Eastern Tales' is a compilation of ten stories from the 1920s and 1930s, all set in colonial Malaysia, Singapore and Borneo. All are about white men and women living in these tropical regions, but in some the jungle forms only the background of the story. The stories vary widely in content: three are crime stories, two involve a mysterious death, and the shortest, 'Mabel' is a rat ...more
Noémi
It's been my first encounter with Mr Maugham, and I daresay it was such a pleasure, my dear. His elegance and wit took me on a lovely journey into the jungle of human character and the most peculiar life of British colonialists. ...more
Ciaran Monaghan
Nov 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Another Maugham novel in quick succession for me and this was chosen for the Malaya and Singapore subject matter. I find it difficult to review a book of short stories as there is such a difference between stories and my feelings can vary from story to story, but overall, this is one of the better short story collections that I have read. There are many superior stories and often my expectations were flipped or surprised mid-way through which I enjoyed. They are quite different in terms of subje ...more
Rusha
Nov 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
In the audiobook, this collection of tales about British colonial life in Asia is conjured vividly to life by the wonderful Robert Powell. Fair warning: the book must be read as a product of its time (as this was originally written in the 30's) as depictions of the indigenous Asian people who populate the story are orientalist and frequently xenophobic. ...more
Paul Cornelius
To read this collection of Maugham short stories is to be whisked away to another time, another place. It's an awful lot like watching a scratchy old black and white adventure film from the 1930s, such as Red Dust or Lady of the Tropics. It just gets everything perfect in transporting the reader to a spot in time and place that existed only ever so briefly but still stirs the imagination of many a reader.

One thing about these stories: nearly all of them seem to be set on a veranda. In that sense
...more
Mark Ellis
Oct 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful vignettes of human trials and tribulations in the now vanished world of Empire.
Dr.J.G.
Feb 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
So many favourites in this - most people like Rain more than any other, at any rate it is the most discussed one. My personal favourite however is Virtue, an unforgettable one.

There are many, many others of course - Round Dozen for one, with amusing details of a much married man aggrieved by one of his wives turning him in.

Then there is the heartbreaking one of love and loss that I can't think of the name and it is a rare one for lack of cynical or otherwise bringing the reader down to earth s
...more
An Odd1
Mar 02, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes the heat is so enervating, the descriptions repetitive: blue sky sprinkled with clouds, energetic peopled friendly, unlike Conrad's dark brooding atmosphere. Dated: But the darkies are different from "us whites"; Brits will never understand the subjegated races - a repeated theme; loneliness causes men to take native wives and leave families for wives from "home".

Part of the reason I skipped could be also because I'd read these before; plots are memorable but I'd forgotten the ending
...more
David Mundy
Oct 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Highly enjoyable, well written, thoughtful, observant and captivating. The longer short stories are substantial and the shorter interludes have bite. A vivid portrayal of Europeans in Malaya in the late flowering of the British empire. The ethnic characterisations are of their time. Whilst not an obvious proponent of white supremacy, Maugham is not a very avert critic either, but being an acute observer, his portraits ring true, and rather confirm a critical modern view of imperialism.
Whilst so
...more
Kevin
Jun 16, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: drama, short-stories
Maugham’s tales about British gentry living and working overseas waxes and wanes with Twilight Zone-esque quirk or Hitchcockian tongue-in-cheek. short, droll stories that shed some insight on 19th century British character and colonialism itself. many also skewer them outright. i picture Maugham writing these with a wry smirk.
Ryan
Nov 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, colonial
Maugham is a superb storyteller, and as this fine collection of his short stories shows, he is as deft with the pen as a master painter with the brush. While I read colonial fiction mainly for the descriptions of historic scenes both natural and man made, it is the characters and their drama where the author truly excels at creating - the tension often so thick you can cut it with a knife.
Bernard M.
Nov 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Fantastic stories which I loved even more since I've been living here for almost 15 years. I'd give it 5 stars but for the couple of weaker, albeit also shorter, stories which had an element of supposedly Far Eastern mystery. ...more
Jill Schroeder
Feb 22, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: audible
Nuanced stories of relationships between men and women in such a different time and place. Headhunters but jolly good chaps. Newspapers a month late from Home. Women making cosy homes at the edges of the Empire.
Anna Mezhova
Feb 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Beautiful short stories, dramas with the backdrop of tropical rainforests. If I wasn't already living in Southeast Asia, this would make me want to go there immediately. ...more
Carolyn
Apr 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Dated but such great stories. Loved all but one.
Realini
Jun 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
A Casual Affair by Somerset Maugham

Far Eastern Tales…the very sound of it makes you fantasize about white beaches, the waves of the Pacific Ocean, but when you add to that the magnificent skill of a wonderful writer, like Somerset Maugham you have the recipe for happiness.
You can sit in a chair and enjoy some of the best writing there is. And if you take my advice, you read Maugham’s short stories.
A Casual Affair is about love and the affair is not as casual as the title suggests, at least for o
...more
Rhys
Oct 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A remarkable collection of short stories. Maugham's characters live according to the values that kept the British Empire going; rigid class distinctions, casual racism, priggishness, an acute awareness of social status, pseudo-virtue. Whereas a writer such as Saki openly mocked these values, Maugham is more subtle. He allows the inflexibility of his characters to seal their own fates. Most of these stories, although written with a light touch, have dark hearts. There is murder, betrayal, pomposi ...more
Christiane
Feb 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories
I loved these brilliant, atmospheric stories set in South East Asia during British colonial rule.

Somerset Maugham transports us to the jungle, the lonely plantation house, the resident’s bungalow, the club, the hotel verandah where sunburnt white men in long chairs are drinking gin slings and stengahs, the deck of steamers plying the South China Sea, the kampong, the polo ground, etc. etc.

Against this tropical backdrop Maugham’s totally believable characters convincingly play out their human dra
...more
Sophie Ng
Apr 27, 2008 is currently reading it
I am in the midst of reading the book as I have vowed to read one story every Monday; and I find it extremely hard to put it down.

Maugham is one of my favourite authors; his books provide such a deep insight into the intricacies of human relationships; so far I have not found another author who could read so deep into the human character and soul.

And he could write well too; a lucid and vivid style one cannot expect from modern writers today.

Door of Opportunity - An adoring wife found out about
...more
Laura Besley
Sep 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
"There is no place in Malaya that has more charm than Tanah Merah." I found this opening sentence of the first story, Footprints in the Jungle, very gripping and I was immediately hooked. Maugham's use of language is beautiful, evocative and lyrical and none of the stories disappoint.

These ten tales of people and their relationships were very much set in a bygone era. Predominantly focused on British people, their way of living was so different from the way that I live (even as an expat) it was
...more
Chris Wharton
Short stories set mostly in British Malaya and Singapore (or Federated Malay States) between WWs I and II. Entertaining stories in their own right, in the old-fashioned narrative style, but most interesting to me were the descriptions of the lives of the colonials -- their disputes, affairs, relations with and prejudices against natives and each other, their travels by sea, river, and rail (both in and to and from the region) -- in various settings: upriver Borneo jungles, Singapore alleys, Mala ...more
Paige Wilson
Mar 04, 2011 rated it liked it
Great compilation of quick reads. A perfect bath book, with the delicious familiar pattern of tales that you likely know the ending of from the very beginning. I would be cautious, however, to call them "insightful" as Maugham reflects racist attitudes and completely "others" the people of the "third world". His narration is one of the colonist, which depicts a misrepresented world of danger and mystery. However, the narration itself is engaging as long there is recognition of this racist "other ...more
Elspeth
Mar 02, 2016 rated it it was ok
Interesting portrait of colonial life in Malaysia, a general theme of hot, sweaty, alcoholic misery and loneliness in the jungle. The language and attitudes are those of Maugham's time, which can be difficult to digest today, while his writing lacks the charm and sparkle of his contemporaries. I found that the stories were not altogether *that* good. Intriguing yes, but the conclusions often disappointing. ...more
Ruth
Sep 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book is an easy to read collection of short stories about colonial life in the Far East in the early 20th century. I like the imagery the author creates, but the stories all have depressing endings.
Kathy Chung
Apr 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
in short story its very rarevthwt I like alk stories in the compilation. this is one of the rare occasion.

I find that the stories here are witty and easy to read. love the ironic twist that he added into each story
Vik Venkatraman
Very poignant collection of stories. By today's standards, some of the themes and punchlines may toe the line of political correctness, given the colonial tone; but the human stories carry through with force. ...more
Raaha As'art
Sep 16, 2007 rated it really liked it
This is a great book for anyone interested in colonial SEA.
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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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