W. Somerset Maugham was the master of the short, concise novel and he could convey relationships, greed and ambition with a startling reality. The remote locations of the quietly magnificent yet decaying British Empire offered him beautiful canvasses on which to write his stories and plays.
The real-life inhabitants of these locations were frankly shocked at being portrayed as so trivial, parochial and vacuous creatures. Maugham would endure the undying hatred of many a South-East Asian planter and his wife for the rest of his life. Yet, for the rest of us, his realistic depictions of the boredom and drudgery of plantation life, and the desire and trappings of what they would regard as civilisation, can re-evoke what were perhaps the more genuine feelings felt by many of the planters and civil servants in the farflung reaches of the Empire.
Many of his short stories are set on an exotic South Sea island. The story of "Red" is an excellent examples of Maugham's wry perception of human foibles and his genius for evoking compelling drama from an acute sense of time and place.
"Red", when about to leave his tropical island and asked, "Will you be gone long?", merely shrugged his shoulders.
Nobody leaving luxurious SOHANO OCEAN VIEW APARTMENTS on tropical Sohano Island in Buka Passage will shrug their shoulders. They know they'll be back soon!