The Trembling of a Leaf

Someone I know says he can’t stand W Somerset Maugham. I’ve only read two short story collections so far, and I must admit that I really like them. Both of them are collections based on the expat experience, and The Trembling of a Leaf is pretty much about expats in places like Samoa (i.e. the South Seas).

There’s something oddly nostalgic* about reading Maugham’s stories of colonialist / imperialist British and Americans in this part of the world. They were bringing ‘progress’ to the natives, but most didn’t seem to understand much beyond their own biases. One of my favourite stories was ‘Red’ (a Swede and a ship’s captain get together for a chat), and ‘Rain’ made me laugh, for all the wrong reasons.

I’m usually not thrilled when I can see the end coming, it’s the mark of a not-very-good author. However, it seems to work with these stories; maybe it’s because they’re mostly about foreigners trying to dominate a land they don’t really get and therefore it confirms some deeply-buried prejudices and instincts? I don’t know.

Of course, if you look on the Books page it says I read an ebook edition. I did, but I had to print it out so I could concentrate (rather than darting off the screen every five minutes to check my email).

* Odd, because I certainly wasn’t alive at the time. Evocative is probably a better adjective.