This book vividly depicts life in the London working class in the late 19th century. Liza lives with her mother in a street with other working class folks and works in a factory. She is wild spirited and crass. In her headstrong ways she spurns the love of a gentle boy who could have given her a happy life and falls instead for an older married man. Her mother is a selfish and drunken woman. Most of the people on the street drink and brawl or drink and revel. Wife beating and infant death or death early in life is a fact of life. The story is sad and the ending is sad; and the saddest thing about it is they could have, with some self discipline, saved the money wasted on drinks, Liza could have married gentle Tom who adores her, her mother could have been responsible enough to bathe and cover the injured girl without letting her get sick in the cold so easily... With just a little bit of self control they could have lived good lives happily ever after.
The amazing thing about Somerset Maugham's writing is that this was what life was like in the London working class, and that life is depicted poignantly for us.