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Publisher's Summary

Far eastern Tales is a collection of Maugham's short stories, all born of his experiences in Malaysia, Singapore, and other outposts of the former British Empire. The stories included on this recording are Footprints in the Jungle, Mabel, P & O, The Door of Oportunity, The Buried Talent, Before the Party, Mr. Know-all, Neil MacAdam, The End of the Flight and The Force of Circumstance.
©2014 Audible, Inc. (P)2014 Audible, Inc.

What listeners say about Far Eastern Tales

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Wonderful and evocative

Strangely moving, yet timeless, these short stories have the sensitivity and sadness of a time passed, yet still present for anybody who has spent time in SE Asia. A series of wonderful tales written by a master of the English language. Extremely well read. Highly recommended without any reservationS.

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Classic stories beautifully narrated

The stories evoke the social and political norms of an era that is hedonistic and self entitled. The narration is perfect .

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  • Ted
  • 30-05-2016

As perfect a reading as I've ever heard

God bless Robert Powell. I never cared for him much as an actor. I remember, decades ago, finding him off-putting in Ken Russell's "Mahler," and even in the second remake of "The 39 Steps" -- which was done in period and so by rights should have been great fun -- he didn't make, to my mind, a particularly appealing Richard Hannay.

But now I've actually gone and bought one of the Audible versions of that Buchan thriller, simply because Powell is the narrator. And the reason I have such faith that he'll do a superb job (which I can already tell from the four-minute sample) is that he does such a magnificent one with these tales of Maugham's.

In fact, I would say this is probably the single best audiobook performance I've ever heard. Anyone who has doubts about the worth of "books on tape" should hear these stories read aloud; they are, in a sense, living arguments for the audiobook form. I had already encountered a couple of the tales in a print collection, but they're much better here. Powell gets every sentence, every lush description, every character, male or female, exactly right, and he makes these irresistible but somewhat contrived stories work as well as they ever possibly could.

When it comes to the voices, he strikes just the right balance. One of the most unpleasant and annoying things about hearing books read aloud, I've found, in both fiction and nonfiction, is the assumption of many a professional narrator that he has to try to duplicate a character's voice, whether it's Winston Churchill's or that of an old woman or a sultry femme fatale. That approach -- and it's the most common one -- always sounds phony to me, and it's downright jarring to hear someone who's been narrating in normal tones suddenly break into a growl or a falsetto or an exaggerated Cockney accent in imitation of some character, before returning to his normal voice. But Powell, fortunately, doesn't overdo it. He suggests without actually mimicking.

The stories themselves -- minor classics, really -- are pleasantly old-fashioned. Tale after tale offers wonderfully atmospheric descriptions of verdant nature, tropical heat, boats put-putting up jungle rivers, shipboard life, pre-war hotels, clubs filled with British colonials (lots of large men with ruddy faces), and other enjoyable staples of the romantic old Far East.

The tales are also driven, for better or worse, by old-fashioned concerns about class, society, reputation, sexual propriety, morality, etc. And they're all designed to hook you effectively from the start -- or at least I was hooked. As I said, they are awfully hard to resist.

Yet none of the stories are completely satisfying, or convincing, or surprising. Far too often, I found myself thinking, Wait, no one would really behave that way. Frequently -- in fact, it's almost a constant in these tales -- characters' personalities seem to turn on a dime. Hatred turns suddenly, unconvincingly, to Christian love; or a devoted wife's affection turns, in an instant, to utter hatred or physical loathing; or a young man's admiration for a woman, along with sexual attraction, turns instantly, for purposes of the plot, to homicidal enmity. These transformations are dramatic, but I didn't believe them.

Which is why I think these readings may actually be better than the stories themselves deserve.

5 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Elena
  • 19-10-2010

Gimlet eyed view of human folly & human compassion

You can't go wrong. Somerset Maugham with his sophisticated understanding and emrace of the ambiguities of the human character. And a great reader. Savor . . .

5 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Glenn Hopp
  • 03-01-2010

Very Smart and Enjoyable

I have heard Robert Powell on other audiobooks and enjoyed his readings very much, and I had read other books and short stories by Somerset Maugham, so I felt that I sort of knew what I would be getting with this download. I enjoyed each story and Powell's delivery very much. I have been thinking if this title would be a good introduction to either this author or this reader to someone unfamiliar with both, and I think it might be. Maugham's writings straddle the popular/literary fence, and Powell is a wonderfully evocative reader. Anyone who enjoyed The Painted Veil would I think enjoy these stories, too.

9 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Melanieby
  • 25-02-2008

A brillian listen

These stories are wonderfully produced. Somerset Maugham isn’t for everyone. His stories, now 75-80, were written in an era less respectful of different races. However, if you get past the irritating terms he uses to denote non-whites, you will see that his real contempt is for the pompous but so often stupid colonials who thought, simply because their country had claimed another, that they personally were rulers and that their worth was so much more than it was. Despite the unevenness of the stories (which knocked it down a star in my rating), Maugham never loses his deliciously scathing wit, razor-like intelligence, and acute eye for the wicked or ironic observation. Moreover, his stories offers a glimpse into a lost world. Having lived over a decade in Southeast Asia, I loved his ability to call up the steamy languidness of the tropics.

However, what makes these stories genuine delights, is the reader. Robert Powell is the master of any accent—and can do 4 or 5 characters at once, keeping each of their voices distinct. Truly a bravura performance that makes for a great audio-book.

3 people found this helpful

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  • jkenley
  • 09-05-2018

Perfect prose

One of my all time favorite authors, Maugham is a master story teller. The narrator did a wonderful job of capturing the moods of each tale. His timing and inflection were superb.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 20-01-2020

Very Enjoyable

This collection of short stories wonderfully written. Robert Powell vivid narration brought the stories alive, and he did the Scottish accent so well in Neil MacAdam.

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  • Gail N.
  • 13-07-2019

The Human Condition

These insightful stories from the time of the British Raj and its far Eastern empire speak of a class of privileged public servants, not especially bright, dedicated or honest, and of the rather depressing lives they led. Thr narrator is pitch perfect and the author writes as someone who experienced these times and this life.

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  • Knucklebones
  • 18-09-2014

Evocative of the age but a bit depressing

Somerset Maugham's a wonderfully observant writer and Robert Powell has a beautifully modulated voice and a superb grasp of accents, so I was really looking forward to this audiobook. The stories are certainly evocative of the age (1920s), the steamy Far Eastern locations, and the insulated British way of life in those colonial outposts. Unfortunately I found the themes in the majority of these tales to be rather depressing: loneliness, marriage break-ups, murder and cowardice. So although I found many of the stories interesting, I won't be listening to this again.

One star off immediately because the audiobook's been lazily chopped up into 1-hour segments, which makes it impossible to find the start of each story.

15 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Toni Hinckley
  • 24-03-2010

Far Eastern Tales (Unabridged)

Spell-binding story-telling in the inestimable tones of Robert Powell.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Alison
  • 04-09-2019

Lovely, and Long 'Short' Stories

This collection is great. It captures the art of what I think WSM did best - rather extended short stories. They are mostly long enough to really build the plots, create many characters, and lead you through a proper story, but end with you wanting a bit more. This collection covers a lot of ground: love, marriage, honour, and adventure - often with a bit of humour. The narration from Robert Powell perfectly matches the period and the settings. Very good.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Paul D
  • 09-05-2018

Literature from another age

Stories of people from another time in a different place - a time and place that no longer exist. Good literature does not recognize this and these stories are as fresh and as interesting as when they were written. They are about people, well crafted and interesting in any circumstance. Love them or hate them, Maugham bring life to very human beings.

3 people found this helpful

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  • FRAN
  • 05-04-2016

Brilliant

Held my attention throughout . Maugham is not read much now but his style is timeless

3 people found this helpful

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  • Mrs. Penelope Gordon
  • 13-04-2020

Excellent

I really enjoyed these stories. I have not really read much of Somerset Maugham, but I was quite captivated by these.All different and read absolutely brilliantly by Robert Powell. Again, not someone I had listened to before, but I shall be looking for his name again when buying a book

1 person found this helpful

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  • V
  • 04-03-2020

Lovely insight into the Empire!

These stories were amusing, tragic and interesting from a historical perspective. Well written and read.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Leonie Frieda
  • 02-01-2020

Maugham - Peerless as ever

Robert Powell narrated the collections of Maugham’s superb short stories which work marvellously as Audio books. Five Stars seem paltry for the compassionate yet mercilessly insightful tales leaving Human Nature quite naked as usual.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Lucy
  • 08-08-2017

Beautifully narrated, a real storyteller

I love Somerset Maugham he tells stories so beautifully. I don't care if they're out of fashion or non PC. They are of the time and therefore historically interesting and well crafted. Ultimately they tell the story of the human condition with all its failings and frailties. I first read Maugham over 40 years ago and they are still captivating. Robert Powell is a brilliant narrator. His voice is pure magic and he enunciates clearly and with great emotion. I enjoyed it so much I looked for other readings from him but there were none that interested me.

Sit back and enjoy and be transported to the Far East in another era.

1 person found this helpful

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  • timmots
  • 05-05-2020

Fascinating

A fascinating insight into the melancholies of colonial life told through some captivating stories, excellently read.

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