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Friday, February 2, 2024

Liza of LambethLiza of Lambeth by W. Somerset Maugham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Muahahahahaha. This is an odd one for me and no mistaking.

On the one hand, it's awfully melodramatic like so many turn of the 19th century novels were. We have our spritely, lively heroine trying to drag herself out of the London gutter, and she really doesn't seem to have a bad bone in her body -- and yet she becomes an ADULTERER. *gasp*

I honestly didn't find myself all that sympathetic with poor Liza, but I did get to a certain point in the novel where, if the roles of the sexes had been reversed, Liza would have come off quite splashingly. Indeed, the fisticuffs scene would have been fun. But it was at this point that I imagined that Maugham was having a bit of fun with us. It was his first novel, and while it fits the popular mode of the times so well, I just had this sneaky suspicion that he WAS making a point about the roles of the sexes (despite being cast as novel of class and poverty).

So, naturally, Liza suffers the grand fate of death by ADULTERY. Or is it a moral death? Anyway, so many heroines in the grand majority of popular novels up to this time tend to die by author's whim or moral platitude. Or bad drapes. Or something. And THAT was THAT.

Here's the thing:

I know this was meant to be a romantic tragedy, with Liza getting her just deserts and all, but I honestly just found it... funny. The whole thing. Like it was one gigantic tongue-in-cheek comedy.

This might be my modern sensibilities totally corrupting my sense of period literature, of course, but it didn't stop my knee-jerk reaction to laughter.

Once I stopped taking any of it seriously, I had a great time. The only thing that would have made this truly brilliant would have been a god-like narrator sweeping in at the very end to say, "Oh, well, moving on..."

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