Up at the Villa is a novella by Somerset Maugham that I managed to read in a single sitting yesterday. It isn't an overly enticing read but I was in a state of physical ruin, having had a mere three hours of sleep the previous night, and I needed to something nice and easy to read to help me unwind in the early evening.
The protagonist in the story is Mary Panton, a thirty-year old widow who is on the verge of making the practical decision to agree to marry Edgar, a much older man who is an upstanding rock, held in the highest regard and with a top job around the corner. However, things go amiss when he is away and a dark and twisted incident proves Mary's undoing. The dark tone in Up at the Villa doesn't permeate the story in the same way that it did with 'Christmas Holiday', but it starts all of a sudden with the aforementioned 'incident' and then carries on through. While Maugham's longer works haven't shined with brilliance for this reader, they remain interesting and attractive for his insights into the human character, and are a stark realistic counter to P.G.Wodehouse.
A description of Edgar: "He did not look a day more than forty-five. A handsome man in the prime of his life. He had dignity without arrogance. He inspired you with confidence. Here was a fellow whom no predicament could perplex and no accident discompose. He wasted no time on small talk."