Christmas Holiday by W. Somerset Maugham

Christmas Holiday by W. Somerset Maugham was first published in 1939. I was drawn to read it purely because of the title, I’ve read quite a lot of Maugham’s books over the last 40 odd years or so and really enjoy his writing, as ever Christmas Holiday was well written but I had been hoping the book might have helped get me into the Christmas spirit – I should have known better!

Charley Mason is from an upper class family and has just finished a year studying accountancy, straight after his three years at Cambridge, his has been a charmed life so far with money being no problem. Usually he goes to the country with his parents at Christmas to celebrate with friends, but this year as a treat for him his parents have suggested that he spends the Christmas holiday in Paris, instead of with family in England as usual. Paris is a place he knows well as he’s been there often with his parents, going around the galleries and museums, he has been brought up to appreciate the arts. However his grandparents had been of humble means – a gardener and a cook – not that the Masons are ashamed of that.

Charley has asked his old friend Simon who is a journalist in Paris to book a hotel room for his week in Paris, and he really expects Simon to meet him off the train in Paris, but Simon hasn’t bothered to do so, Charley is disappointed. It seems that Simon is not at all interested in the arrival of Charley and when they do meet up Charley is shocked at his appearance. Simon looks ill, which isn’t surprising as he’s only eating one meal a day, he’s determined to deny himself everything pleasant in life, apart from obviously enjoying unloading all his thoughts on politics and life in general onto Charley. Simon had been a keen communist when he was at Cambridge.

Simon decides to take Charley to a nightclub (of sorts) where Charley is introduced to a Russian princess. Her family’s wealth had supposedly disappeared with the coming of the Russian revolution and she is now working as a topless dancer/prostitute. Her family’s fortunes had fallen as Charley’s had risen. Charley is fascinated by her and her reasons for working where she does.

So, as you can see, this was not a barrel of laughs, but it was an enjoyable and interesting read, just not what I had expected.

This one is on my Classics Club list, so that’s another one ticked off.

2 thoughts on “Christmas Holiday by W. Somerset Maugham

  1. I finished Christmas Holiday just an hour ago. Given the content, the characters, their individual philosophies, I found it fascinating that this was published in 1939, and that Maugham probably finished it in 1938, just as Fascism is blowing Europe wide open. I will have more to say to you personally–getting your thoughts about the book, in an email, I hope.
    In any case, Happy New Year to you and Jack!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *