Cakes and Ale, Chapter Five

Cakes and Ale further establishes itself as Of Human Bondage Lite with young Ashenden (Maugham’s flashback structure is a bit of a mess, but it’s fine) learning how to ride a bicycle. He’s learning it from the author he previously had lunch with in a flashback last chapter. Because the author, Driffield, is dead in the present. Anyway, it’s this somewhat adorable chapter of a young chap learning how to ride a bicycle in the early days of bicycles. It’s quaint, beautifully described, and Maugham caps it off with Ashenden talking to the cook about worldly things. See, Driffield’s first wife is filling young Ashenden with unexplained excitement, as a British lads of good birth must have often got around the ladies. It’s not deep, it’s not ambitious, but it’s solid enough. The characterization is stronger this chapter than anyone else. Hopefully Maugham won’t jump back to the boring present, but I’m sure he’ll have to do so eventually.

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