The Moon and Sixpence

Author William Somerset Maugham
Vote 10/10
Reviewed on 2018-04-29
Read in Italian

The Moon and Sixpence (Italian translation)

TL; DR: This book is a damn masterpiece.

The Moon and Sixpence is the story of one Charles Strickland, a 40-year-old man with a boring job in finance and a perfectly happy bourgeois life, that one day decides to leave everything he has, including job and family, to become a painter. No explanation, no remorse, no anticipation. The story, it seems, is inspired by Paul Gauguin’s life (but I have no idea to which extent).

The story is told by one of the painter’s acquaintances, a doctor turned writer, after Strickland’s death, and describes their relationship from Strickland’s beginnings in Paris, via his miserable life in Marseille, until his end in Tahiti.

Apart from a few horribly sexist remarks (which however I tend to read as applying to the English society of the time), the author’s reflections on the human condition feel incredibly accurate. Somerset Maugham is a fine observer of the human soul and its torments, and too many times I’ve had to stop reading to ask myself whether I recognized myself in one of the descriptions, and too many I actually have.

The character of Strickland is brilliant, a true force of nature: a man who stops caring about everything in the world, and sacrifices himself and everyone he meets, in his supreme search of Beauty.

All the characters are extremely vivid and the story is a frantic page-turner from beginning to end. A book I won’t stop recommending to anyone.