I think this is a novel. The main character whose name is Charlie (I think) goes on a Europe trip, and he ends up in France with a friend of his. Now I am not too sure it was set in France but it seems so.

Anyway they go to a club and he meets a prostitute. I think her name started with ‘L’ ... Louisa or something like that. He offers to let her stay with him for a few days. He comes to think of her as a friend and learns that her husband is in jail for murder. The night her husband killed someone he also slept with her and she felt guilty that her child would be a product of sin. Then she and her mother in law try to help her husband but they fail. And weirdly she becomes a prostitute to pay for her husband’s sins. She wants to punish herself.

Charlie’s friend lives a self imposed life of hardship to be prepared for anything ... after he hears her story and sees his friend’s odd way of living he becomes disillusioned with life. What started as a fun trip becomes difficult for him. He comes home melancholy and I think the novel ends like this “it seemed like the bottom had fallen off the world".

I think it’s by Somerset Maugham but I am not sure. I was always haunted by the story. Any help would be appreciated :)

1 Answer 1


Your intuition was right: it is a Somerset Maugham novel. I tried searching Google for somerset maugham novel charlie prostitute and found the novel Christmas Holiday (1939) by W. Somerset Maugham. The description on Goodreads is enough to verify that it's the one you're looking for:

For Christmas, Charley Mason's father granted him a trip to Paris, all expenses paid. It should have been a lark, but on his first night Charley meets a woman whose story will forever change his life.

For Lydia has seen tragedy. The Russian Revolution displaced her family, left her homeless, fatherless. And for reasons that elude Charley, Lydia pines for a man half a world away--a dope dealer and murderer whose sins Lydia seeks to absolve through her own self- destruction. Haunting, erotic, deeply effecting, Christmas Holiday explores two souls capsized by compassion--and the confusion that engulfed a generation in the days between the Great Wars.

The protagonist is Charley (almost Charlie!), a young man from England who's on holiday in France. The friend of his is called Simon. The prostitute's name is Lydia - not Louise, but it does begin with L. Her husband is Robert Berger, a man in prison who never appears 'onstage' in the story. The last sentence of the story is:

It was a fact he had done nothing; his father thought he had had a devil of a time and was afraid he had contracted a venereal disease, and he hadn’t even had a woman; only one thing had happened to him, it was rather curious when you come to think of it, and he didn’t just then quite know what to do about it: the bottom had fallen out of his world.


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