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Sunday, November 8, 2009

Rain - W. Somerset Maugham - A Review by Toni

Rain, W. Somerset Maugham

Rain is a short story by W. Somerset Maugham. I really enjoyed the story. I am a newbie to Maugham, even though I have acquired quite a collection of his works. If the writing in this story is any indication of the rest of his works, then I will be immersed in more of his works this winter. I read this from a paperback book off my shelf called: The Complete Short Stories of W. Somerset Maugham Vol. I, Rain and other stories. It looks like I have the second edition printing, 1968 by Washington Square Press. I got the book at a library book sale for less than 50 cents.

The story is descriptive and well written. I enjoyed getting into the plot and scenery from the very onset of the story. We have a doctor and his wife traveling with a missionary and his wife. They end up on a Pacific South Sea Island called Pago-Pago. The story takes place over a short period of time while the travelers are detained on this island due to an outbreak of measles that causes a temporary quarantine.

The missionary and his wife are self righteous. While of the same class/race as the missionary couple, the doctor and his wife are a bit less pious and judgemental. They have "paired" as traveling companions with the missionary couples if only for the reason that no one else "qualifies" to be companions with them. They look down on the sins of the fellow travellers as well as the natives whom they view as completely sinful. They are forced to share a place of lodging with a woman who is less than pious and righteous in her ways and that sets the stage of the story. At first we don't quite know the extent of this woman's brazen behavior, but she does drink, play the gramophone, and entertain men at night. Regardless of her state of "righteousness," the doctor's wife and missionary's wife have judged her by her appearance before they even know, claiming she "looks fast."

The wives are bent of gawking and judging while the missionary husband is set on a mission to cleanse her of her sin. He is bent on bringing her to her knees to repent. He makes a visit to her room one night to stop her behavior.

What unfolds is interesting and the author clearly exposes the religious hypocrisy of the missionary man.

The "fallen" woman in the story was quite funny at first. I couldn't help but be reminded of Cathy Bates role as Molly Brown in Titanic. I am not sure if you recall but she wasn't bad at all, but the others looked down on her for her spunk and her "new money. " Sorry, I digress.

I won't reveal any more. I enjoyed the descriptive, eloquent writer. I really love the mastery over writing that Maugham displays in this story. I love books that are written in a South Seas setting.

Here is a sample:
When he came on deck next morning they were close to land. He looked at it with greedy eyes. There was a thin strip of silver beach rising quickly to hills covered to the top with luxuriant vegetation. The coconut trees, thick and green, came nearly to the water`s edge, and among them you saw the grass houses of the Samoaris; and here and there, gleaming white, a little church. Mrs. Davidson came and stood beside him. She was dressed in black, and wore round her neck a gold chain, from which dangled a small cross. She was a little woman, with brown, dull hair very elaborately arranged, and she had prominent blue eyes behind invisible pince-nez. Her face was long, like a sheep`s, but she gave no impression of foolishness, rather of extreme alertness; she had the quick movements of a bird. The most remarkable thing about her was her voice, high, metallic, and without inflection; it fell on the ear with a hard monotony, irritating to the nerves like the pitiless clamour of the pneumatic drill.

This story gave me just want I wanted out of a short story. It was fast, well written, engaging, descriptive. So much better than a 30 minute sit-com. If you want to read it on line you can do so HERE.

Have a great week. Enjoy your books. If you have a review of this work, feel free to link in a comment so we can check it out.


rhapsodyinbooks said...

I get so infuriated at stories about judgmental, hypocritical missionaries that it sounds to me like I couldn't read this one without bursting a blood vessel! :--)

Anonymous said...

You MUST read The Moon and Sixpence. It is wonderful. Nice review. I haven't read many Maugham short stories.

Toni said...

Rhapsody.. you'd certainly burst..but I'd think you'd like it all the same.

Writergal. Thanks for the recommendation. I am looking it up now.

Ti said...

I've not read any Maugham and I typically have a problem with short stories but I am trying to step out of my box a bit and will be reviewing a colletion of them soon.

S. Krishna said...

I love Maugham but haven't read any of his short stories. I'll have to check this one out. Great review!

Teddy Rose said...

Thanks for bringing this short to my attention! I saved it to read in the future.

BTW, did you know about John from the Book Mine Set. He hosts Short Story Monday, where you can link your short story reviews.

You can find Book Mine Set here:

Wisdom tooth said...

Thanks for the review. I have just read Maugham's Rain, and enjoyed it immensely.
You MUST read his other short story: "The Verger".

Barbara Hardee Wiggins uggu said...

If you enjoyed the short story, "Rain" by W. Somerset Maugham, then I think you would enjoy one of his most vivid stories, "The Pool." This story focuses on an individual who is living in a foreign environment and is unable to survive. The story illustrates the difference between the cultures and the inability to accept those differences could destroy love.

Regarding the previous comment about missionaries, remember that Maugham wrote his stories prior to World War II. Also his cynical attitude towards missionaries and clergymen is portrayed throughout his short stories, especially "Rain." As a young boy,Maugham was sent to live with his clergyman uncle after his parents died. He must have lost some of his confidence in religion and his uncle. Maugham states: "Presently I discovered that my uncle was a selfish man who cared for nothing but his own comfort...I was taught that we lived in the presence of God and that the chief business of man was to save his soul. I could not help seeing that none of these clergyman practiced what they preached' (The Summing Up 247(.

It helps to read about Maugham prior to reading his work.

Barbara Hardee Wiggins