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Based on the life of Postimpressionist artist Paul Gauguin, The Moon and Sixpence builds on a long tradition of European writing about the South Pacific as an exotic locale. It also marks the transformation of British writer W. Somerset Maugham from celebrated playwright to accomplished novelist.
In The Moon and Sixpence, Charles Strickland is a respectable London stockbroker who decides in middle age to abandon his wife and children and devote himself to his true passion: art. Strickland's destructive desire for self-expression takes him first to Paris to learn the craft of painting, and finally to Tahiti in the South Pacific. The Moon and Sixpence remains a complex and engaging novel echoing Maugham's own struggles between artistic expression and public respectability, and between his public persona and private life.