I’ve recently read Catalina, a love story, by British author W. Somerset Maugham. Maugham is best known for Of Human Bondage and The Razor’s Edge. I found this used 1948 first edition of Catalina on Amazon for just a handful of bucks. This is the first Maugham book that I have read and apparently this is not one of his best stories.

The setting is 1600’s Spain, during the Inquisition. It starts out interesting enough, with naive Catalina, the beautiful, young protagonist, who had been trampled by a bull (remember this is Spain) causing her to lose the use of her legs and because of this, she loses her boyfriend, Diego. Everyone throughout the book is metaphorically trying to trample her by trying to use her to further their own agendas or advance their own careers. This includes her family, Diego’s family, the Catholic church and even happens in her career by her boss later in the book. This part is very plausible and I though well thought out and well written by Maugham. The love story parts are much less than the religious parts.

Many of the antagonists are part of the Catholic church and I’m not a fan of organized religion. So I got tired and irritated by all the detailed Catholic stuff very early on, which is a major portion of the book. The “miracles” and the appearances of Mary, the mother of Jesus, were not plausible for me. The second appearance seemed very tongue in cheek and almost comedic.

If you’re planning to read W. Somerset Maugham, I recommend that this not be the first book because it might discourage you from reading his other books. If you want a story that mixes organized religion with a love story during the inquisition, then go your quiet place and start reading or listening.


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