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Cakes and Ale

The Skeleton in the Cupboard

a novel by W. Somerset Maugham, published in 1930. Subtitled The Skeleton in the Cupboard, Maugham's novel raised contemporary ire for its satirical portraits. Hugh Walpole detected a cruel caricature of himself in the character of the meretricious author, Alroy Kear, and the superficially respectable Grand Old Man of English Letters, Edward Driffield, was commonly assumed to represent Thomas Hardy. The novel is written from the point of view of a middle-aged playwright, Willie Ashenden, who has been asked by Driffield's widow to supply his early memories of the author for inclusion in a sanitized biography. The narrative switches between the older Ashenden's cynical and witty musings on the London literary scene, and memories of his early life in Blackstable, a Kentish town where he originally encountered Driffield and his first wife Rosie Gann. The novel centres on the attractive, paradoxical character of Rosie, an earthy enchantress whose devil-may-care approach to life and love earn her the adoration of many and the censure of the class-ridden, misanthropic society of Blackstable. Maugham's satire on the widespread hypocrisy, which spreads from kitchen maids to celebrated hostesses, is combined with the restrained lyricism of Ashenden's romantic encounters with Rosie.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Burghers of Calais to Peter Carey Biography