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Christmas Holiday (Vintage Classics) Paperback – 1 Jun 2001

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics; New Ed edition (1 Jun. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099286858
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099286851
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.7 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 169,746 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"Contrasts the complacency of prewar Britain with the nastiness of what was brewing on the Continent. It remains effortlessly readable" (The Times)

"Brilliant" (New York Times)

"One reads it with a feeling of increasing respect for his mastery of the trade. One has the same delight as in watching a first-class cabinet-maker cutting dovetails" (Evelyn Waugh)

Book Description

A coming-of-age novel that moves from genteel British society to the grim underworld of Paris before the war

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 27 Sept. 2001
Format: Paperback
This is an interesting book for today's readers. Published in 1939 before the outbreaking of the war, it shows how aware Maugham was of the politics in Europe. Through Charlie's eyes we see a world falling to pieces. His parents represent something on the verge of destruction. Simon shows us what is wrong with us as humans. But it's really the girl's story that captures the author's heart - although is she is presented to us to the cynicism that is Maugham's trademark. One can't help but like her, her story and the book, while feeling a bitter taste in one's mouth. A book to make you think.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By S Riaz HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 3 Dec. 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Without doubt, Maugham must be one of the most underrated authors in the English language. "Christmas Holiday" is perhaps not one of his best known novels, but it is certainly has interesting themes and characters and will give you much to think about. Written in 1939, it concerns a young man called Charley Mason, expectant and excited about a visit to Paris. The trip is a reward for Charley working with his father for a year and he intends to meet up with his old friend Simon Fenimore, who spent a lot of time with his family as a boy in school holidays, being on his own in the world. Although he filled Charley's mother with a sense of unease, Charley considers him his closest friend and looks forward to spending time with him; but when he arrives in Paris he finds Simon much changed.

Charley, open hearted and unsuspicious, is hoping for an uncomplicated visit - seeing some pictures, visiting with his friend, getting out and about on the town. Instead he finds Simon less eager to see him than he hoped and then his old friend mischieviously links him up with Princess Olga in a high class bordello. Her real name is Lydia and Maugham uses Charley to unfold her story - a refugee from the revolution who falls in love with a murderer. Although war as such is never mentioned, there is a real sense of unease and despair about the book. Charley and his family are clinging to a way of life which, we are aware, will soon end forever and politics are clearly on the mind of everyone. Before long, Charley's attitudes are being challenged and his holiday is to test his comfortable beliefs.

Many books with the word "Christmas" in them are either saccharine sweet or overly sentimental. Many of them are, frankly, pretty awful.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By reader 451 TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 29 Dec. 2011
Format: Paperback
It will be a sad day for me when I run out of Somerset Maugham novels to read. Christmas Holiday is not one of his best-known books, but it is on par with the best.

At the heart of the novel is a plot-driver frequently taken up by Maugham: the protagonist falls in love with someone who does not by any measure deserve him or her. Indeed, in one of the characters' own words here: '...I can't imagine anything more heart-rending than to love with all your soul someone that you know is worthless' (page 239). Such is also the premise of The Painted Veil, Theatre, The Magician, and of course of the masterpiece, Of Human Bondage. But it is given a new twist here in that the story is told from the perspective of a third party, a young Englishman on a visit to Paris.

Thus the book begins with Charley Mason's decision to spend a few days in the French capital over Christmas, on a visit to a childhood friend with a foreign correspondent's posting. But the mischievous Simon has planned something else for Charley than a romp about town. Charley Mason is soon drawn to the sad tale of Lydia, Russian exile, wife of a convicted murderer, and now prostitute in a classy brothel. The focus shifts to Lydia's luckless life. Smart, sensitive, she is our sufferer of hopeless love: for the worthless Robert Berger, the small-time crook who once married her, turned killer, and is now imprisoned in Guyana. Mason is confronted with lives wasted in solitude, danger, destitution. Maugham lets us peer at the 1930s Paris underworld and the abject condition of its shipwrecked Russians. But the novel's strength draws from the contrast with Mason's own respectable and moneyed, English background.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Cole Davis on 4 Jun. 2011
Format: Paperback
This is an intricate, characterful reworking of Crime and Punishment. A young middle class man visits Paris for a holiday and is introduced by an old friend to an impoverished young woman whose family has fled the Russian Revolution. One character is a man who murders as a symbol of his own personal fulfilment, but the more dangerous man is the visitor's friend, whose Nietzchean hero to be emulated is the communist police chief Dzershinsky. Written just before the second world war, this carries a warning to a complacent England of the rise of fascism.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By RachelWalker TOP 500 REVIEWER on 30 Dec. 2013
Format: Paperback
Of all the Maugham books i've read so far, this is probably the most serious-minded (despite its title - I chose to read it over Christmas day; however it's not remotely festive). The novel concerns Charley Mason a young Englishman just out of university, who's ummed and erred about what career path to take, and is rewarded by his parents for choosing to join his father's firm by a christmas holiday on his own in paris. Maugham's main concern, subsequent to presenting Charley, is to bring him down to earth after his somewhat privileged upbringing by showing him the deprivations of a Russian emigre in Paris whose husband has been imprisoned for murder.

Christmas Holiday is Maugham's most focussed book in terms of his aims, and concentrates heavily on hammering and sealing the contrast of Charley's life and Lydia's in the reader's brain. it is however not remotely heavy handed. Lydia's tale is fascinating, engaging and you are all too glad to get to the sections of the narrative where she tells it.

I would recommend this very highly. A great book about contrasting and complacent lives, set in war-cusped europe. excellent.
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