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Up at the Villa by W. Somerset Maugham
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Nov 04, 2008

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bookshelves: fiction-mainstream

Maugham, W. Somerset. UP AT THE VILLA. (1941,1942). ***. A vapid short novel by Maugham set in Florence just before the breakout of WW II. A young widow takes up residence in a villa up the hill from Florence, lent to her by friends so that she can recover from the death of her husband. She is being courted by an older Brit who is on the rise in the foreign service and is about to be appointed as the governor-administrator of Bengal. He pops the question, but the young widow is not ready to give him an answer. In any event, he’s off to London to meet with his superiors and will wait until his return for the final answer. While he is gone, the young widow goes to a party hosted by a local princess at a Florentine restaurant. There she meets the local rakehell, a young man her age who has money and a bad reputation with the ladies. While at the restaurant, a young violinist plays, rather badly, for the group. He was a substitute for the young opera tenor that they had expected. The young widow feels sorry for him and leaves him a tip of 100 lira. Later on that evening, she finds the young violinist hanging about her villa and invites him in. He manages to seduce her after a dinner she prepares for him, but she boldly states that the whole experience was one she provided based on pity for his circumstances. He is flabbergasted, his pride is torn apart – he takes a pistol he found in her purse and shoots himself with it. Well...what happens next is kind of unbelievable, too, since she calls the local rakehell and has him bail her out of trouble. Aside from an unbelievable plot, the characters are straight out of Pilgrim’s Progress in their attitudes. They are clearly black and white, with no shades of gray. This is not one of Maugham’s better works.

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