ESCAPE FROM THE SHADOWS: An Autobiography by Robin Maugham


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Lord Maugham is, as always, a sufficiently facile and accomplished writer to make you forget that some of this material will be familiar from his (1966) Somerset and All the Maughams -- an inevitability -- as well as variant versions of his own life which fed his novels -- The Servant or the tattier Wrong People. Once past the deliberately eye-stopping opener ""Overshadowed, queer, alcoholic, I should have been a complete failure"" Maugham settles down to the more conventionally subdued memoir uncloseting still more conventional antecedents for his homosexual lifestyle -- the too well loved mother; chilly, supercilious and lonely father; ritual initiation at Eton, etc. While Uncle Willie (whose secretary Gerald was an early-on seducer and corrupter) always maintained that you can't change your ""essential nature,"" and kept his partially hidden behind a heterosexual facade, Robin Maugham did not, excising here in late middle age ""the passions of his body and the inclinations of his heart"" and the failed attempt to find a permanent relationship. All kinds of people appear here -- Churchill and Harold Nicolson, Guy Burgess and Donald MacLean, Auden and at great length Uncle Willie, in his sad, stuttering, snivelling old age, often churlishly resenting Robin's success while his own father dismissed The Servant as ""very unpleasant, wholly disgusting."" Some of this is close to mawkish; most of it is candid, if perhaps selectively so; and all of it has the human interest, however vicarious, of the private life made public.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1972
Publisher: McGraw-Hill