Cakes and Ale, Chapter Fourteen

It’s a long, unwieldy chapter with old man Ashenden thinking about young adult Ashenden hanging out with the author and his wife in London. I think London. Around society, anyway. Most of the chapter is a bunch of character sketching, but not of Ashenden, the author, or the author’s wife. It’s for the supporting cast in this time period and it’s a lot. Maugham loves writing about writers and he goes all out with the history of the writer the author’s patron had before the author. Edward is the author. Rosie is the author’s wife. I’m going to have to refer to them by name if Maugham’s going to be introducing seven characters a chapter. There’s a long-winded, mildly amusing (if you pretend you’re British and reading it in 1930) bit about the House of Lords being replaced with writers. Then the character sketches—Maugham doesn’t describe characters so much as judge them (or Ashenden does). Finally, once Rosie appears, Maugham goes off on a recollection of Ashenden going to see her portrait. Young man Ashenden—early twenties—hasn’t until now realized Rosie is beautiful, even if it isn’t conventionally for the time. It’s a strange chapter, occasionally amusing but too much. If Cakes and Ale isn’t about anything but Ashenden’s sexual frustration, it’s going to get real tiresome.

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