Liza of Lambeth, Chapter One

Young Maugham is all I could think reading this first chapter. Young, almost careful Maugham, writing about young, seemingly carefree Liza. It’s a short chapter—a few pages—and opens as scenic description. Maugham toggles from the novel’s past tense to present to describe the setting; it’s a real place after all, or the reader needs to think of it as a real place. The moves aren’t disconcerting, but they are noticeable. Maugham tries hard not to let his voice overpower the setting and can’t help doing so occasionally. There’s a great analogy where Maugham dismisses the idea of analogies. Liza herself doesn’t show up until the scene is set and underway. She arrives, the supporting players passively waiting for her; they’re costars in her story. Maugham directly addresses the reader at one point. It goes on a short paragraph. It’s a compelling short chapter, a fine—if predictable—way to start the novel; Maugham’s impatient but not in a bad way.

Scroll to Top