William Somerset Maugham's remarkable first novel was such an instant success that the 23-year-old medical student left school to become a full-time author. Liza, a vibrant but poverty-stricken London girl, is the most graceful and daring dancer that anyone has ever seen, wildly moving to the music of the Italian organ player on Old Kent Road. But her bright light begins to dim as the tragic effects of illness and poverty overtake her body, if not her spirit. Maugham's expert storytelling, economy of expression, and effective use of irony helped him create one of literature's most memorable heroines. (Microsoft Bookshelf '95)More
W. Somerset Maugham's debut serves as a jarring exposé of late 19th century working class London. Brutal factory conditions, squalid housing, and general disregard for human life define teenager Liza Kemp’s coming of age. Liza attracts the affections of married man Jim Blakeston - 22 years her senior and the father of nine children - and finds herself publicly stigmatized, subject to unspeakable physical and verbal abuse. Striking period actress Davina Porter effortlessly captures the characters' working-class cockney slang while affecting the resigned acceptance that permeates the Lambeth slums. Indeed, hardly a morality tale, Maugham's kitchen-sink drama is matter-of-fact realism at its most honest - a glimpse into a world where husbands beat their wives, life is cheap, and the only recourse is the bottle.
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