Collected short stories of W Somerset Maugham

Over the last year I’ve been re-reading these stories, which I first devoured as a teenager. I finished the fourth volume today on the train to Paris. They were one of my first encounters with the adult section of the library: easily digestible (even if I had no idea where Borneo and Batavia were – and even today I’d be pushed to pinpoint them on a map) and full of sweeping generalisations about human behaviour that, at that age, I took as gospel.

They are still enormously readable and – even if I no longer take them as the last word in psychological insight – a fascinating look into inter-war Britain and the Far East of planters and District Officers. They are also invaluable guides to the attitudes of that time – attitudes which we now call racist and sexist.

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