This one was once again a recourse to old times. ‘Cakes and Ale’ was the first book in English language i bought voluntarily, at the age of about sixteen. My first attempt to read it failed already at the third page or so, I am not sure, why. So it went onto a book shelf and then moved from one flat to another.
In this new year, at last, I found it again, and soon found it intriguing after the first few pages. It has this unagitated quality of classics that makes it so pleasant to read, once one gets rid of the feeling that a story needs a lot of action to avoid boredom. The plot is well planned: The first-person storyteller, a seasoned writer (some parts of the story are autobiographic), who tells a story about a fellow colleague, named Edward Driffield, that he met as a boy and who recently has died, being maybe the last famous man of literature of the ending Victorian era.
The book tells a lot of details how people in England lived around 1900, and how society was very stiff and snobbery. Still, the author deals with delicate topics like adultery, calculating relationships and bankruptcy offence, but also with beauty and love. Although the first-person teller is mostly neutral in his portrayals, the reader gets the impressions of the emotions the protagonists produce. But never it feels awkward or artificial, the characters seem natural – and timeless.
Most of the book consists of cutbacks, how he got acquainted with the Driffield couple and how he was impressed by them, especially by Rose Driffield. The language is fluent and of classic style — a few words maybe are not familiar anymore, especially to non-English readers.
A recommendation to read more from W. Somerset Maugham.