A clever, readable and entertaining book. Deceptively simple. W Somerset Maugham uses the contrasting personalities of Charley and Simon to highlight some of the profound and disturbing changes taking place in mainland Europe during the late 1930s (when he wrote the story). W Somerset Maugham was remarkably prescient about the horrors and inhumanity that was about to unfold. And, despite this, the book is very readable - giving the reader insights into Russian refugees living in Paris, convicts, and a lower middle class French family adapting to the death of the father during World War One. The characters of Simon and Robert Berger are particularly interesting and well drawn, and Lydia makes an enigmatic, complex cypher for the book's more philosophical points.
This is only my second book by W Somerset Maugham. The first was Ashenden. Both share the same qualities: beguiling, well written, insightful, intriguing, informative, entertaining, and quietly profound.