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4.4 out of 5 stars21
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 11 October 2012
"There is no place in Malaya that has more charm than Tanah Merah." I found this opening sentence of the first story, Footprints in the Jungle, very gripping and I was immediately hooked. Maugham's use of language is beautiful, evocative and lyrical and none of the stories disappoint.

These ten tales of people and their relationships were very much set in a bygone era. Predominantly focused on British people, their way of living was so different from the way that I live (even as an expat) it was like reading about a different culture. Great changes appear to have happened since this time and the issues of class and race sometimes made for uncomfortable reading.
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on 6 July 2000
This is a beautifully written work that really gives you the feeling of what SE Asia must have been like 75-100 years ago for the British (and other) colonials stationed there. In his various stories, Maugham puts us deep in the jungle, maintaining British traditions in order to stay "civilized" and shows us what happens when taken outside of our natural environment. After returning home from a year in Vietnam, I really enjoyed how this book transported me back to SE Asia.
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on 3 April 2013
Another ten stories. I read these immediately following on from 'Rain and Other South Sea Stories' and they folllowed on very well. Again a very varied collection of stories of different lengths describing very different and complex human behaviour as in 'Footprints in the Jungle', and a simple but intense story as in 'The Force of Circumstance'. And then there is the very witty very short 'Mabel' which is almost an interlude. 'Mr. Know-all' was made into a short film, which I have on dvd. Another totally satisfying collection, superb entertainment.
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on 20 August 2003
Despite being a Brit I have always been put off reading Maugham by his image as a Colonial raconteur. I expected a nostalgia for a way of life I have no sympathy for, tinged with occasional pomposity.
And how wrong I was! Maugham has turned out to be unexpectedly subversive, skewering the social and moral conventions of his period without remorse. In Mauham's world there is no God, except that of Society - an Old Testament God feared by his worshippers. Genuine moral concerns take second place to the correct appearance, and the usual moral platitudes have fatal consequences when followed.
Towering slightly beneath Society in wrath come Vengeful Women - disappointed wives who exact a price from their inadequate menfolk, or from themselves for bourgeois compromise. There are no male heroes in Maugham and the gentler sex is invariably ferocious beneath a calm demeanour.
Which is not to say Maugham is savage to read. His prose is cystal sharp, precise and bright. Yes, there is comedy, but at best it is laconic and often cynical.
Looking for rip-roaring tales, the romance of the East or a confirmation of conventional morality? You've got the wrong book.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 7 September 2009
Far Eastern Tales isn't just for short-story readers - I normally only read novels. Maugham's characterisation and sense of the plot twist are such that these, most of them at novella length anyway, contain all the reward of full-length works. Perhaps the best piece in this selection is Neil MacAdam, in which a young biologist gets dragged into a doomed jungle expedition by the lusting, manipulative wife of his employer. Also in Borneo, Before The Party has the young wife of an older district officer murder her alcoholic husband. But all of these stories have dense plots filled with tension and feeling. And they are so well portrayed and credibly set that, this being my introduction to Maugham, I thought he was a colonial writer.

Indeed, the stories of Far Eastern Tales are principally about exile, about solitude and its consequences. They look at social and psychological questions under the lab conditions of communities or individuals culturally, and often physically, cut off from their surroundings. Finally, they are about what it is to be English, whether in the questionable, defunct imperial setting or generally, whether now or in the past. Though several of these Tales are contained in the fatter Collected Short Stories, this sample is well worth reading together for its coherence of theme and atmosphere.
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on 4 January 2015
Great stuff. Hard to access the stories these days as Maugham has (for the moment, anyway) gone out of fashion. They transport one to a vanished world of gin slings, sola topees and tiffin, but human nature stays much the same, so they are not irrelevant and many of them pack an emotional punch.

A word of warning to the politically faint-hearted: prepare to be shocked...
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on 28 March 2011
Conjures up an atmosphere redolent of the bygone world of stengas on the verandah, rubbers of bridge at the club, dark deeds in the night when the sun never set on the British Empire. All this told by the master of short story writing. Somerset Maughm's Far Eastern Tales are great bedtime reading.
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on 6 September 2010
I bought this book not realising that it is a collection of the stories that I already have in the 'Short Stories' ie Vintage have taken out stories from the 4 volumes of his short stories and made a 'new 'collection! I feel cheated to say the least and I feel Vintage / Amazon should have made this clear.

Also the quality of the paper /print is poor so that the print is a bit 'dazzling 'and tiring to read, being rather too black. I shall be avoiding Vintage as much as possible in future.
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on 29 June 2010
Can you believe that the Angostura Bitters company has gone bust?
I went out today to buy some to make a gin pahit for my book club tonight, in preparation for our discussion of 'Far Eastern Tales', and it no longer exists.
Anyway, 'bitter' disappointment aside I had to write to say how much I loved this book.
I grew up in Singapore in the 80s & 90s and so much of Maugham's description of expat life is still very true. The affairs, the intrigue (you can leave your past behind when you move country), the perfect descriptions of Malaysia, Singapore and Borneo are all so captivating you forget where you are. I read this on a sunny afternoon, on a plane, in bed on a rainy day and each time within seconds was transported to the jungle.
He paints portraits of characters that are revolting, charming, bonkers (I love Mabel!)and seems to genuinely like people. I've read he spent years travelling in the east, outstaying his welcome everywhere he went!
Buy this book, choose it for your bookclub - it's funny, the twists in the tales deliciously satisfying, and most of all you suspect a lot of it is true!
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on 14 June 2016
An excellent classic of the old Far East. Well worth re-reading
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