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Cakes and Ale

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  4,769 Ratings  ·  376 Reviews
Of all Somerset Maugham's novels Cakes and Ale is the gayest. The entrancing character of Rosie, a barmaid with a history and a heart of gold, places the book, as creative literature, on a level with Of Human Bondage.

Rosie, in less decorous days, had been married to a famous author whose second wife later nursed him into the position of Grand Old Man of English Letters. So
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Paperback, 203 pages
Published 1948 by Penguin Books (first published 1930)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Bill  Kerwin
Jul 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

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
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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
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Cheryl
May 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 never
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Werner
Jul 09, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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Trevor
Jun 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 –
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Sketchbook
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
F.R.
Apr 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Lavinia
Nov 21, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008, fiction
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
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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
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
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Hunter Murphy
Aug 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.

Renée Paule
Jun 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant!
Jessica
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  ·  review of another edition
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
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Faye
I really couldn't get into this book, so disappointed. I've still got several W. Somerset Maugham novels on my bookshelf so hopefully the next one will be better!
QNPoohBear
Jan 06, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Gabriele
Dec 05, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: inglese, owned
Nella quarta di copertina di un Maugham letto qualche tempo fa c'era la splendida immagine di come la macchina narrativa di questo autore fosse assimilabile agli ingranaggi di un orologio, uno di quelli tanto piccoli che solamente con grandissima precisione possono essere assemblati e continuare a funzionare nel tempo. Maugham è un orologiaio, e questo "Il fantasma nell'armadio" (o "Lo scheletro nell'armadio", a seconda della traduzione) ne è un ottimo esempio: se le sue storie sono, ad un primo ...more
Lisa
Aug 08, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Ray Campbell
Jul 10, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2012
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
umberto
May 28, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, satirical
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 wife Rosie, one of the most delightful heroines of twentieth-century literature” (back cover). Interestingly, from those stories, novels by
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K.D. Absolutely
Dec 11, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 501 Must Read Books, 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die
Shelves: 1001-core, 501
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
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
Lobstergirl
Oct 04, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Efka
Jul 14, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: romanai
Aš esu iš tų žmonių, kuriems visada labai svarbus knygoje pasakojamos istorijos tempas, Nelabai mėgstu lėtas knygas, dar mažiau mėgstu tokias, kuriose mažoka veiksmo. Tad net pats nesupratau, kaip čia taip paėmė ir taip greit persiskaitė, o negana to, ir patiko knyga, kurioje veiksmo, atrodo, išvis kaip ir nėra. Kažkas su kažkuo susitiko, pasikalbėjo, pasipasakojo prisiminimus, žaidimo pabaiga. Bet nieko nepadarysi, taip buvo. Realiai tai yra knyga apie nieką. Na ok, ne apie nieką, bet turinys i ...more
John
Mar 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: high-drama
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
Connie (Ava Catherine)
Mar 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, uk, c2c, 2015, src
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.

Maria Thomarey
3,5 .....
Ilona
Aug 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites

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

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J.
Apr 05, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: somerset-maugham
"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 stor
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  • My Search for Warren Harding
  • The Adventures of Gil Blas
  • Before Lunch
  • Ennui
  • Fireflies
  • The Horse's Mouth
  • Tropic Of Ruislip
  • The Harpole Report
  • Less Than Angels
  • The Polyglots
  • England, Their England
  • White Man Falling
  • No Bed for Bacon
  • Pictures from an Institution
  • Alms For Oblivion Vol I
  • A Time to Be Born
  • Titmuss Regained
  • Anglo-Saxon Attitudes
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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
More about W. Somerset Maugham...

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“It's no good trying to keep up old friendships. It's painful for both sides. The fact is, one grows out of people, and the only thing is to face it.” 122 likes
“The Americans, who are the most efficient people on the earth, have carried [phrase-making] to such a height of perfection and have invented so wide a range of pithy and hackneyed phrases that they can carry on an amusing and animated conversation without giving a moment’s reflection to what they are saying and so leave their minds free to consider the more important matters of big business and fornication.” 21 likes
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