Florença. Uma magnífica casa nas colinas serve de cenário para um sonho que, subitamente, se transformará em pesadelo...
Um simples acto de compaixão, o desejo de proporcionar alguma beleza à vida atribulada e infeliz de um jovem refugiado, vai no entanto dar início a um pesadelo de violência que destruirá a ténue serenidade de Mary. Intuitivamente, ela vai confiar na ajuda e compreensão de Rowley Flint, um estranho de reputação mais que duvidosa. E compreenderá com ele que rejeitar o amor, mesmo com todos os seus múltiplos riscos, é rejeitar a própria vida.
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William Somerset Maugham (pronounced 'mawm'), CH (25 January 1874 – 16 December 1965) was an English playwright, novelist and short story writer. He was one of the most popular authors of his era, and reputedly the highest paid of his profession during the 1930s.
Maugham's father was an English lawyer handling the legal affairs of the British embassy in Paris. Since French law declared that all children born on French soil could be conscripted for military service, Robert Ormond Maugham arranged for William to be born at the embassy, technically on British soil, saving him from conscription into any future French wars. His grandfather, another Robert, had also been a prominent lawyer and cofounder of the English Law Society, and it was taken for granted that William would follow in their footsteps. Events were to ensure this was not to be, but his elder brother Viscount Maugham did enjoy a distinguished legal career, and served as Lord Chancellor between 1938–39.
Maugham's mother Edith Mary (née Snell) was consumptive, a condition for which the doctors of the time prescribed childbirth. As a result, Maugham had three older brothers already enrolled in boarding school by the time he was three and he was effectively raised as an only child. Childbirth proved no cure for tuberculosis, and Edith Mary Maugham died at the age of 41, six days after the stillbirth of her final son. The death of his mother left Maugham traumatized for life, and he kept his mother's photograph by his bedside until his own death at the age of 91 in Nice, France. Two years after Maugham's mother's death, his father died of cancer. William was sent back to England to be cared for by his uncle, Henry MacDonald Maugham, the Vicar of Whitstable, in Kent. The move was catastrophic. Henry Maugham proved cold and emotionally cruel. The King's School, Canterbury, where William was a boarder during school terms, proved merely another version of purgatory, where he was teased for his bad English (French had been his first language) and his short stature, which he inherited from his father. It is at this time that Maugham developed the stammer that would stay with him all his life, although it was sporadic and subject to mood and circumstance.
Life at the vicarage was tame, and emotions were tightly circumscribed. Maugham was forbidden to lose his temper, or to make emotional displays of any kind — and he was denied the chance to see others express their own emotions. He was a quiet, private but very curious child, and this denial of the emotion of others was at least as hard on him as the denial of his own emotions.
Maugham was miserable both at the vicarage and at school. As a result, he developed a talent for applying a wounding remark to those who displeased him. This ability is sometimes reflected in the characters that populate his writings. At sixteen, Maugham refused to continue at The King's School and his uncle allowed him to travel to Germany, where he studied literature, philosophy and German at Heidelberg University. It was during his year in Heidelberg that he met John Ellingham Brooks, an Englishman ten years his senior. On his return to England his uncle found Maugham a position in an accountant's office, but after a month Maugham gave it up and returned to Whitstable. His uncle was not pleased, and set about finding Maugham a new profession. Maugham's father and three older brothers were all distinguished lawyers and Maugham asked to be excused from the duty of following in their footsteps.
A career in the church was rejected because a stammering minister might make the family seem ridiculous. Likewise, the civil service was rejected — not out of consideration for Maugham's own feelings or interests, but because the recent law requiring civil servants to qualify by passing an examination made Maugham's uncle conclude that the civil service was no longer a career for gentlemen. The local doctor suggested the profession of medicine and Maugham's uncle reluctantly approved this. Maugham had been writing steadily since the age of 20 and fervently intended to become an author, but because Maugham was not of age, he could not confess this to his guardian. So he spent the next five years as a medical student at King's College London.