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Debra Hamel is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.


Books by Debra Hamel:

THE BATTLE OF ARGINUSAE :
VICTORY AT SEA AND ITS TRAGIC AFTERMATH IN THE FINAL YEARS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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KILLING ERATOSTHENES:
A TRUE CRIME STORY
FROM ANCIENT ATHENS
By Debra Hamel


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READING HERODOTUS:
A GUIDED TOUR THROUGH THE WILD BOARS, DANCING SUITORS, AND CRAZY TYRANTS OF THE HISTORY
By Debra Hamel


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THE MUTILATION OF THE HERMS:
UNPACKING AN ANCIENT MYSTERY
By Debra Hamel


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TRYING NEAIRA:
THE TRUE STORY OF A COURTESAN'S SCANDALOUS LIFE IN ANCIENT GREECE
By Debra Hamel


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SOCRATES AT WAR:
THE MILITARY HEROICS OF AN ICONIC INTELLECTUAL
By Debra Hamel


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ANCIENT GREEKS IN DRAG:
THE LIBERATION OF THEBES AND OTHER ACTS OF HEROIC TRANSVESTISM
By Debra Hamel


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IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY TWEET:
FIVE HUNDRED 1ST LINES IN 140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
By Debra Hamel


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PRISONERS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
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Maugham, W. Somerset: The Hero

  Amazon  

4 stars

In The Hero, which was originally published in 1901, Somerset Maugham tells the story of Captain James Parsons, who comes home to Little Primpton a wounded hero. He's been away for five years, first at Sandhurst and then in India and South Africa. During that time he has not seen his parents--his "people," as Maugham consistently refers to them--nor his fiancé, Mary Clibborn, to whom he was engaged shortly before he left home. Upon his return he finds, unhappily, that everything has changed. Or rather, he has: his experiences have broadened his mind, and he now finds the dogmatism and puritanical attitudes of his parents and their circle unbearably oppressive. His parents adore him and yet their love is conditional upon his adherence to the rigid code by which their lives are circumscribed. Mary is no better. Ostensibly an angel of mercy, whose good deeds toward the ill of Little Primpton are outdone only by the kindnesses she heaps on James and his parents, she is in fact an odious creature, small-minded and convinced of her own rightness and out to change James into the sort of husband she should like. It doesn't help that during his time away James experienced real passion, falling helplessly in love with the wife of a friend, a woman who made a habit of collecting and toying with admirers. His burning infatuation for this woman made James realize that his relationship with Mary, which he'd taken as love, had never been anything more than a comfortable friendship.

Maugham fashions of this private drama a surprisingly suspenseful story: will James free himself before it's too late from the obligations of an oppressive marriage, or will his conscience not allow him to disappoint Mary and his parents? One doesn't know until the last sentence of the book proper (there is a brief epilogue as well) how things will end.

Maugham allows himself a purple passage or two, but apart from those occasional bits the book reads very quickly. His characterizations are superb: one can imagine very well the vile people with whom James is forced to consort. (In fact I'm sure I recognize a relative or two in these pages.) At over a century old, the book does offer the occasional head-scratcher, dialogue-wise:

"'How d'you feel?' I asked. 'Bit dicky; but comfortable. I didn't funk it, did I?' 'No, of course not, you juggins!' I said."

But there's in fact very little of that sort of thing. The Kindle's built-in dictionary did prove very helpful on this one, though ("glebe," anyone?).

Readily available for free or cheap in electronic form, Maugham's Hero is worth the download.

Comments

1.

Hi,

I just want to say that I have enjoyed your review enormously. It's been a great surprise for me, but a very pleasant one, to see a review of one of Maugham's earliest novels (his third actually). 'The Hero' is probably my favourite early book of Maugham, who is definitely my favourite writer. Though a far cry from the mature Maugham, it is a very plesant read and not at all without some food for thought. You've captured the essence of the novel quite nicely.

Take care,
Alexander

2.

Thanks so much, Alexander! Probably 20 years ago I read a lot of Somerset Maugham and really loved the books. But this was the first I've read in a long time. I've always admired his clarity of expression.

Anyway, I really appreciate your comments!

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