Up at the Villa (1941) by W. Somerset Maugham

You’d raised him to the stars and then you flung him back to the gutter.

Up at the villaUp at the Villa (1941) is admittedly considered to be my first read by Maugham(1872-1965). I borrowed Of Human Bondage before and didn’t start it; this one I thought I could treat it as an introductory writing. The book begins with Mary Panton, widowed but a beautiful goddess regarded by all men, staying at a villa on top of the hill, overlooking Florence and contemplating the loss of her husband and the eight years of matrimony. Just when she thinks, at the age of thirty, she would embroil herself rationally in a loveless marriage to a prestigious, conciliatory and firm governor-to-be of Bengal, things get thickened unexpectedly only because she thinks this time to be domineering herself for one single companionable act to a young man living in penury.

You see, I liked your sending for me when you were in a hell of a mess. And then the way you kept your head, it looked pretty sticky at one moment; you’ve got nerve all right and I liked that too.

As to my reading experience with this book, the quote “you’d raised him to the stars and then you flung him back to the gutter” says very much to the circumstances happened to Mary later on which appear influential to the male characters. To Edgar, Karl, and Rowley, she is an unexceptionable goddess in the flawless facades according to their own perspectives. As the story goes on, each faces the unendurable anguish once recognising Mary’s sullied purity as she inconspicuously unveils own true self before them. However through their revelation and charges towards her with a wielding power comprising their sexual jealousy belonging to men, Mary also gradually releases the shackles and lets her heart look into herself deeply than a looking-glass. Regarding Edgar and Karl, they enslave themselves in desire, pride, indulgence of hardship and memories. “Clear your mind of cant. That’s what Dr. Johnson said, and damned good advice it was” – “Live and Let Live” appears to be a motto of Rowley; he never puts on frills but affections as his type of an idle vagabond, and never does harm, which is in opposition to the other two’s tribulations inflicted on themselves.

You see, my dear, the advantage of me is that I’m a bad hat. A lot of people reproach me for the things I’ve done; I dare say they’re right; I don’t think I’ve done anyone much harm, women have liked me and I have a naturally affectionate disposition; so the rest followed almost automatically; but anyhow I’ve got neither the right nor the inclination to reproach other people for what they’ve done.

All in all, this is a powerful novella, and Maugham’s writing is phenomenal. It sets in Italy but centers on the lives of Britons (one of which being an Empire-builder as well as an Indian civilian), Austrian refugees, and Spaniards, which is kind of special and interesting to know everyone would explore and have something with different views, and this novella is invaluable for keeps. I know, there is a movie adaptation based on this novella, but trust me, read the book first, you won’t be disappointed. I will hopefully plunge into another work by Maugham soon.