NOVEL: Up At The Villa
AUTHOR: W. Somerset Maugham
YEAR OF PUBLICATION: 1941
This elegantly written novella tells the story of Mary Panton, a beautiful and wealthy young English widow marking time in Italy during the “long weekend” between the World Wars and wondering whether she should marry an older suitor. It’s a romantic thriller in exquisite, minimalist prose (seriously, Maugham wrote fiction the way Count Basie played piano), and it turns on an impulsive decision to offer a ride to a handsome stranger in the middle of the night.
Full of keen insight into human behavior, the novella is a gripping and suspenseful tale. Not a word is wasted, and you can finish it in an evening (ideally, before driving around the hills above Florence whimsically hoping for a life-changing adventure).
And of the suitor Mary finally chooses? It’s not a spoiler to say that she ends up falling for the one who quotes Samuel Johnson to her.
RATING (one to five whistles, with five being the best): Four Whistles
HOW TO PURCHASE: Amazon
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