Christmas Holiday by W. Somerset Maugham
The opening scene: Charley Mason – a twenty-three year old British college grad who has recently taken an office job in the family business, is embarking on an all expense paid holiday vacation to Paris – a Christmas gift from his proud parents. Charley is an idealist; carefree and innocent. His financial security and sheltered upbringing have always been protection against any pain or suffering. To this date he has viewed life through rose tinted glasses.
But, this doesn’t turn out to be the joyous adventure his parents expected. In fact, not in Charley’s wildest imagination could he have envisioned the events that occur in this classic 1930’s Maugham drama.
The main attraction of this trip for Charley is the fact that his oldest childhood friend, Simon, is now residing in Paris. Simon was a poor lonely orphan with big hopes and dreams, and a burning hunger for success. In spite of the contrasting personalities and different backgrounds, Simon and Charley became friends. And against his parents wishes, they remained friends. But their reunion is not what Charley expects. Now Simon is a successful journalist with his eye on a political career. Simon has become a cynical realist; a wanna-be revolutionary, angry, bitter, and filled with scorn for the establishment. And to make things even more interesting, as a practical joke, Simon introduces Charley to a young Russian prostitute who’s husband is serving life in prison for murder.
The vacation takes on a nightmarish quality as Charley views first hand the stark reality of poverty, the pain and despair of loneliness, and the dark side of human nature.
Maugham cleverly draws on the sharp contrast between the upper class landed gentry of European society, and the poor immigrants and struggling lower class blue collar workers. He symbolically uses art and music to demonstrate the depth of emotion felt by those who suffer. And in spite of the fact that this was an old fashioned dated drama it held my interest. Maugham was a pro at character development, dialog, and story telling.
Rated 3 Stars.
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