Book Club Review: The Moon and Sixpence

9781604595659Title: The Moon and Sixpence
Author: William Somerset Maugham
Genre: Classic Literature, Historical Fiction
Publisher: Aegypan
Publication Date: 1919
Pages: 192
Format Read: ebook
Standalone or series: standalone
Where I got the book: Amazon kindle
Date finished reading: April 30, 2019

Goodreads Description: Based on the life of Paul Gauguin, The Moon and Sixpence is W. Somerset Maugham’s ode to the powerful forces behind creative genius.

Charles Strickland is a staid banker, a man of wealth and privilege. He is also a man possessed of an unquenchable desire to create art. As Strickland pursues his artistic vision, he leaves London for Paris and Tahiti, and in his quest makes sacrifices that leaves the lives of those closest to him in tatters. Through Maugham’s sympathetic eye Strickland’s tortured and cruel soul becomes a symbol of the blessing and the curse of transcendent artistic genius, and the cost in humans lives it sometimes demands.

My Review: This book was picked for my IRL Great Books book club. Even though the Goodreads description says that this book is based on the life of Paul Gauguin, it is loosely based on his life – more like Paul Gauguin inspired the idea of The Moon and Sixpence.

This meetup was another good example of why I feel book clubs are valuable. I did not enjoy this book at all, but the book club still had an amazing discussion regarding it. The discussion often centered around the main themes we believed the book possessed:

  • What is art & what makes a work successful? What makes art art? It is discussed in the book that sometimes it just takes one critic to praise the work for it to be successful.
  • What drives an artist?
  • A great artist does not necessarily mean that he/she is a great person. There was a lot of discussion about beauty vs. goodness, as many of us did not find Strickland (the main character) or even the narrator redeemable characters.

I could not really see passed the fact that I disliked the main character, Strickland. At one point Strickland is talking to the narrator and says this about his wife: “My dear fellow, I only hope you’ll be able to make her see it. But women are very unintelligent.” Other times, there would be lines that were less insulting that made me laugh a bit, so I think there are many lines and interactions throughout the book that are supposed to be humorous.

The most interesting conversation during book club was how much the author may have put of himself in this story. In The Moon and Sixpence, the main character, Strickland, leaves his family, his source of income and his position in English society to move to Paris to pursue art. He didn’t care about anyone but himself and his art. We wondered if the narrator, who is fascinated by Strickland, was experiencing some self-hate and jealous of Strickland. That he may have been struggling with societal restraints just as the author was.

After this book club meeting, I do believe there is more depth to this book than I originally gave it credit for. However, I just could not see passed the horrible characters. I did not feel like there were any characters in the story to really like. I will admit that I am a bit more fascinated by William Somerset Maugham’s life than his literary works.

My Rating: ♦ ♦

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