Plot summary (from the publisher): Maugham completed the writing of LIZA OF LAMBETH during his final year of medical school. The publication of this novel brought him enough money and notoriety that he decided to abandon thoughts of a career as a doctor (he qualified but never practiced) and instead make his way as a full-time writer. The novel itself is the story of a young girl, Liza, living in the Lambeth slums of London. The details of the novel are rich and evocative, much of the material inspired by the people and events Maugham encountered while he was a medical student practicing mid-wifery in the same area.
Warning: Spoilers below!
- Well, it’s always interesting to me to read a well-regarded author’s earliest works to see if I can detect some of the greatness that lies ahead. (Note: I could not in this case.)
- The descriptions of London’s slums and lower classes were certainly evocative. That aspect of the book reminded me of Dickens.
- While I’m not ordinarily opposed to grim, depressing stories, Liza of Lambeth took this to a new level when Liza’s mother, instead of being torn up that Liza was dying, thought of the insurance money she would get. I know family members often have mercenary motives like this, but Liza and her mother weren’t even particularly adversarial up to that point, so the mother’s reaction was jarring.
- The dialogue as written was very difficult to read. Obviously Maugham was striving for authenticity, but it became rather a trial having to decipher all the oddly contracted words.
As W. Somerset Maugham’s very first published novel(la), Liza of Lambeth is worth reading because of the author’s pedigree. However, it’s not much as a standalone work and probably shouldn’t serve as any reader’s introduction to Maugham. I give this one 2 stars out of 5.