Customer Reviews

310
4.5 out of 5 stars
Of Human Bondage (Modern Library 100 Best Novels)
Format: PaperbackChange
Price:$10.77 + Free shipping with Amazon Prime
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item


There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

223 of 226 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon September 3, 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback
W. Somerset Maugham's Of Human Bondage is one of the best novels I have ever read. The language is simple. The narration is subtle. The characters are real and display emotions and feelings everyone can identify with. The power of novel becomes apparent when you are reading it. You choke up every once a while, you smile for hours after you have finished reading certain passages, and you comprehend your own self, your woes and possibilities, better through perspectives that novel provides.

Philip Carey is born with a clubfoot, and as he grows up, orphaned, he struggles with his own deformity. The initial quarter of the novel is about his growing up, and details incidents and relationships that shape our hero. He then develops a fancy of becoming a painter and travels to Paris, only to quit few years later to return to London, where he studies to become a doctor. The most engrossing part of novel starts here with the entry of Mildred, the waitress.

The rest of the novel thrives on the passion of Philip, his love that carries him to the edge of self-destruction, and his coming of age. Unrequited love has never been potrayed better. Philip allows himself to become an instrument in hands of cold-hearted Mildred, who repeatedly ruins herself through absurd choices, and ruins him for not withstanding his love and care, he finds himself snubbed, ridiculed, bereft. Eventhough his reason tells him otherwise, Philip is unable to release himself from his passion for a considerable time. As is said in the novel, "But when all was said the important thing was to love rather than to be loved; and he yearned for Mildred with his whole soul."

The novel is lot more than just story of Philip and Mildred, and there are other unforgettable characters. Each person Philip encounters and each friend he makes, leaves an indelible impression on him and the reader. Be it his idealist friend Hayward, who has too much promise too little product, the poet Cronshaw who dies in poverty, Fenny Price whose hard work cannot make her draw even reasonably well, his uncle and aunt whose love is both tacit and beautifully potrayed and the writer Norah who shows Philip of a caring and loving other.

The most charming people in the novel are Athlneys. Athlney brings life and humor into the novel, and I think saves Philip from a total destruction. The novel really highlights the virtue that lies in a simple, happy married life and Anthlneys win over both Philip and readers with their goodness and simplicity. Thorpe Anthlney with his nine children is a jolly character, and be it his conversations or actions, he wins over our hearts outright.

Philip finds love in most unexpected quarters and is surprised by how help crops up from strangers. His every experience makes him as richer as the reader becomes in reading about it. The thoughts about the meaning of life, or about love or religion or about virtue or vice, and about each aspect of life that Philip encounters are spelt out with a subtlety and mastery. These thoughts find easy resonance with the reader, and make Of Human Bondage an unforgettable affair. The honesty of this piece is stunning. This novel, written without any flourishes and intricate wordplay or mystery, is I think a celebration of the deep insight and understanding of the author.

I have read his other works. The Razor's Edge, The Moon and Six Pence as well as his short stories are a proof of Maugham's ability to tell simple tales with great mastery. These, on their own, make Maugham a great novelist. But it is after reading Of Human Bondage that I realized why most novelists and readers have considered this piece as one the greatest pieces in World Literature. Maugham's aim was perhaps of catharisis and he put his own emotions into the characters, and therefore, he's created a work that is timeless and unforgettable. A must read for everyone who can read.
22 commentsWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
189 of 206 people found the following review helpful
on July 19, 2000
Format: Paperback
What Buddhist burst of contemplation led to this great novel written by that "technician," W Somerset Maugham? Of all the great books of the 20th century, which one could compare with its raw nerve and sinew? Here are no word games, no playing with the chronology, no obfuscation. With the limpid prose that had become his trademark, Maugham took us by the most direct route into his own private inferno.
What in his hero Philip Carey was a clubfoot was for Maugham a painful stammer. What was Carey's public school at "Tercanbury" was Maugham's Canterbury. And, what is most interesting, what were Carey's tortured amours with the opposite sex were Maugham's tortured amours with the same sex. Yet with all the "translation" going on, the intensity of the feelings was transferred intact. The pain of Philip's on-again off-again relationship with Mildred has few equals in the literature of self-torture and self-delusion, ranking with Swann's pursuit of Odette de Crecy.
OF HUMAN BONDAGE is a big book. There are hundreds of characters; and many of the lesser characters are memorable. The ineffectual dilettante Hayward, the skeptical poet Cronshaw, the icily bland Mildred, the despairing artist Fanny Price, the treacherous Griffiths -- even the walk-on role of grumpy old Dr. South comes alive in the last few pages of the novel.
The settings are equally diffuse: London, the English countryside, Heidelberg, Paris, a Channel fishing village, and -- an amusing canard -- Toledo in Spain. (Carey is always dreaming of going there, but he never does.)
When one is young, life looks like a triumphant progress through love, fame, and wealth. There appears, however, to be an inherent weakness in the organism; and it tends to go astray more than it does forward. We give ourselves to uncaring people; we constantly meet with reverses; we see our childhood dreams trampled by money-grubbing and the quiet desperation of which Thoreau wrote.
And yet there is a spring that runs through us all. Even when it is dammed up, as Philip Carey's so often is, it can break out and rush forward, carrying everything in its path. When it happens deus-ex-machina style in BONDAGE, we are exhilarated (if not convinced). Maugham lets us down easily. He is too great and generous a writer to leave us in despair.
Maugham's own story turned out well: he died rich, at an advanced age, and full of honors. His books are still in print and read by millions. What is more, Maugham, particularly in OF HUMAN BONDAGE, showed us what lay beneath the unperturbable veneer: We saw the skull beneath the skin.
11 commentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
153 of 166 people found the following review helpful
on March 27, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I like this novel very much, but am always hard pressed to say why. Philip, the protagonist, isn't very sympathetic. The novel goes on at great length to describe several episodes that seem to be transparently taken from Maugham's own life. And I don't agree with Philip's lack of faith, although I understand it. Perhaps it has something to do with Philip's directionless nature, something most every young man can identify with. I read this first on graduating high school, wrote papers on it in grad school, and reread it again recently at the age of 34. Why? Because Philip is a very believable character. He suffers and endures, rather than swallow his pride when it would definitely be to his advantage. It's very easy to identify with someone who is so imperfect, instead of an idealized individual about whom you couldn't care less. Philip draws you in because he's so very human, flawed but purposeful, cynical yet still in possession of his dreams. Two last points: First, the novel is an _excellent_ look at London at the turn of the century. Reading this will teach you volumes about life as it was lived in this city, from its living conditions and social order to its worlds of medicine and bohemia. Second, the character of Mildred is the most callous, unfeeling individual I've ever met in print, although I've since seen many like her, both male and female, in my own life. Most likely, everyone encounters a Mildred sooner or later: better to meet her here first, where you can study her at your leisure. While I haven't found other works by Maugham nearly as interesting, this one has a special place on my bookshelf.
44 commentsWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
46 of 48 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
W. Somerset Maugham's Of Human Bondage is one of the best novels I have ever read. The language is simple. The narration is subtle. The characters are real and display emotions and feelings everyone can identify with. The power of novel becomes apparent when you are reading it. You choke up every once a while, you smile for hours after you have finished reading certain passages, and you comprehend your own self, your woes and possibilities, better through perspectives that novel provides.

Philip Carey is born with a clubfoot, and as he grows up, orphaned, he struggles with his own deformity. The initial quarter of the novel is about his growing up, and details incidents and relationships that shape our hero. He then develops a fancy of becoming a painter and travels to Paris, only to quit few years later to return to London, where he studies to become a doctor. The most engrossing part of novel starts here with the entry of Mildred, the waitress.

The rest of the novel thrives on the passion of Philip, his love that carries him to the edge of self-destruction, and his coming of age. Unrequited love has never been potrayed better. Philip allows himself to become an instrument in hands of cold-hearted Mildred, who repeatedly ruins herself through absurd choices, and ruins him for not withstanding his love and care, he finds himself snubbed, ridiculed, bereft. Eventhough his reason tells him otherwise, Philip is unable to release himself from his passion for a considerable time. As is said in the novel, "But when all was said the important thing was to love rather than to be loved; and he yearned for Mildred with his whole soul."

The novel is lot more than just story of Philip and Mildred, and there are other unforgettable characters. Each person Philip encounters and each friend he makes, leaves an indelible impression on him and the reader. Be it his idealist friend Hayward, who has too much promise too little product, the poet Cronshaw who dies in poverty, Fenny Price whose hard work cannot make her draw even reasonably well, his uncle and aunt whose love is both tacit and beautifully potrayed and the writer Norah who shows Philip of a caring and loving other.

The most charming people in the novel are Athlneys. Athlney brings life and humor into the novel, and I think saves Philip from a total destruction. The novel really highlights the virtue that lies in a simple, happy married life and Anthlneys win over both Philip and readers with their goodness and simplicity. Thorpe Anthlney with his nine children is a jolly character, and be it his conversations or actions, he wins over our hearts outright.

Philip finds love in most unexpected quarters and is surprised by how help crops up from strangers. His every experience makes him as richer as the reader becomes in reading about it. The thoughts about the meaning of life, or about love or religion or about virtue or vice, and about each aspect of life that Philip encounters are spelt out with a subtlety and mastery. These thoughts find easy resonance with the reader, and make Of Human Bondage an unforgettable affair. The honesty of this piece is stunning. This novel, written without any flourishes and intricate wordplay or mystery, is I think a celebration of the deep insight and understanding of the author.

I have read his other works. The Razor's Edge, The Moon and Six Pence as well as his short stories are a proof of Maugham's ability to tell simple tales with great mastery. These, on their own, make Maugham a great novelist. But it is after reading Of Human Bondage that I realized why most novelists and readers have considered this piece as one the greatest pieces in World Literature. Maugham's aim was perhaps of catharisis and he put his own emotions into the characters, and therefore, he's created a work that is timeless and unforgettable. A must read for everyone who can read.
11 commentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
54 of 57 people found the following review helpful
on June 18, 2010
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
I never knew that there were so many great classics that I had never read. This one is tops and is easy to read even for those not accustomed to the language of some of these "older" novels. The book grabs you fairly quickly so it is easy to stick with it. I read the freebie on my Kindle and it was fantastic...one of my all-time faves (and I read a lot).

Don't let the title throw you off. It is about an orphan's life as he grows up under his uncle and aunt's care in the English countryside, his moves to various European cities to study just as many professions, and his eventual calling.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon October 16, 2006
Format: Paperback
Of Human Bondage is one of my favorite books. The best time to read it is in late adolescence, when the need to figure out who you are and how you fit in is particularly acute. But its insights into the human condition can be profitably and pleasurably absorbed at any stage of life.

First published in 1915, it's a coming of age story that Maugham felt compelled to write so he could put to rest memories of his own past. Phillip Carey is a sensitive, reserved boy who bears the physical affliction of a club foot. His parents die when he's young, and he's sent to be raised by his uncle, a Vicar more concerned with his creature comforts that the emotional needs of a young boy. Tormented at school for his deformity, Phillip becomes an outsider, with the acute powers of observation that compensate the outsider for being cut out of the human herd. He flees England to study German in Heidelberg. Returning home, he becomes a clerk in a firm of Chartered Accountants, but his soul rebels against the tedium of the work. Hoping that his small talent for drawing can be developed into something larger, he goes to Paris to study art.

As an art student, Phillip learns a lot about life, and enough of art to know he'll never be anything but average as a painter. Spurning mediocrity, he goes back to London and enrolls in medical school. At this point he meets Mildred, a waitress in a tea shop. Despite being very clear eyed about her flaws of character and personality, Phillip falls madly, self-destructively in love with her. Phillip has spent much of his young adult life attempting to free himself from the convention wisdom and morality of his time. He prides himself on being clear eyed about people and in control of his emotions. But his carefully erected rationalist philosophy proves powerless against his unreasoning desire. This tempestuous relationship is the beating heart of the novel, and the strongest memory most people retain about it.

Some critics have expressed disappointment with the story's ending. After suffering many more trials, Phillip is finally at the point of leaving England for a life of adventure as a traveling doctor in the Orient. With his dream in his grasp, he willingly abandons it for a more conventional kind of life. But unlike Raskolnikov's abrupt conversion to Christianity at the end of Crime and Punishment, Phillip's choice of the conventional life, and a conventional romance, has been carefully prepared for by the author. For much of the book, Phillip and other characters have been debating how much free will an individual actually has. Cronshaw, a drunken poet Phillip befriends in Paris, sums it up this way: "I act as though I were a free agent, but when an action is performed, it is clear that all the forces of the universe conspired to cause it, and nothing I could do could have prevented it." Phillip is free to choose his life's course; he is also the plaything of chance and fate.

Much in the novel corresponds to events in Maugham's own life. His mother died young, he was raised by an uncle who was a Vicar, spent time in Heidelberg and trained as a doctor. Maugham didn't have a club foot, but did have a bad stammer that made conversation a trial. He was also a closet homosexual at a time in England when such behavior led to social ostracism and the threat of jail. Maugham himself lived the life Phillip dreamed of, free of many conventional constraints. Unlike Phillip, it's not clear that such a life brought Maugham any closer to happiness. Gore Vidal, another gay writer of consequence, perceptively noted that Maugham's greatest character may have been the authorial self that he presented to his public with unflagging consistency right into old age. This controlled, avuncular persona successfully masked the insecurities, grievances and sexual torments of Maugham the man.

Maugham once characterized himself as a "first rate writer of the second rank." If the first rank is peopled with the likes of Dostoievski, Proust, Joyce, Faulkner, Marquez and Mishima, he's right. But its intellectual depth and emotional honesty put this novel in the first rank. It should be read as long as there are young people with keen minds and ardent hearts trying to figure out where they fit in the world.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I really enjoy Maugham's writing - it is a pleasure to read. Although written close to 90 years ago, the characters and settings are so alive and present that it comes across as a book that could have been released within the last decade. His characters grow and change during the novel, and in this one in particular Philip undergoes tremendous changes in philosphy and lifestyle.

There are times that the reader wants to shake Philip for not making the 'right' choices, but that is a testament to how thoroughly Maugham brings the reader into the story.

The title is perhaps best summed up when Philip realizes that he prefers to love someone who does not love him - someone who he knows he doesn't really like - than be loved by someone he does not share that feeling for.

A few of the events are a bit predictable (the stock market and even the final relationship, for example, not wanting to reveal the details to a new reader) and the endgame resolves itself rather rapidly after a 500 page buildup, but overall one of the best books I have read in quite some time.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on June 12, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This Somerset Maugham classic is a must-read. Of the hundreds of novels I have read in my years, THIS is the best. Period. While Maugham has been placed near the bottom of reading lists in literature classrooms, this enduring masterpiece shows why that is a travesty. How many critics does it take to say, "Maugham may have been the greatest storyteller ever," before people actually begin to READ him again?

"Of Human Bondage" is the story of Philip Carey up until Carey is thirty. You LIVE the life of Philip right along with him. The writing is so riveting that as you conclude, you close the book and ask yourself, "what am I going to do now"? It is easy to experience "Philip withdrawal" after finishing "Of Human Bondage." Don't let it last long though - catch more writing from the master, the great William Somerset Maugham.

***UPDATE***May 1, 2011***

Another decade of living and reading has passed. 'Of Human Bondage' is still my favorite book. No question. I just wish more people were reading Maugham and, especially, this greatest of novels.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on June 30, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This book has everything - a fascinating main character, interesting minor characters and exploits the theme of human suffering at an emotional and physical level.
Maugham is masterful in the way he carries the reader on Philip Carey's journey so that you are almost pleading with the character not to follow the road he is taking.
Possibly the best description is when he falls to his lowest point as a shop assistant and the indignities he is forced to endure in order to survive. Although there is a tendency sometimes to criticize him for his foolhardiness, as a reader you are ultimately drawn into sympathising with the plight of this relatively inexperienced young man.
I am hard put to think of any modern novel that has it all as this book does. Although I have read his other novels, I believe Maugham really surpassed himself when writing this fantastic book which I re-read every few years and always enjoy. Only Thomas Hardy comes close in terms of examining man's emotional suffering at the hands of a woman - something that he strongly experienced in his married life.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on April 30, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
If my house were on fire and I could only salvage one book of fiction, this would be my choice. If someone were to tell me that they read this book and didn't like it, I would know instantly that we have nothing in common.

There are parts to this story that cause tears to spring to my eyes, other parts where I laugh out loud. A little boy becomes a man and the events of his life are riveting. There comes a point where he is broke - not a penny to his name. This is, to me, one the most heartwrenching things I've ever read. His description of what is means to have no money, to be standing with your nose pressed against the window of life where you cannot participate, is scorching, poignant, and so true that you stare wide-eyed at the page. I felt like I knew this person. There is a special place in my heart for Somerset Maugham.
11 commentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
     
 
Customers who viewed this also viewed
The Razor's Edge
The Razor's Edge by W. Somerset Maugham (Paperback - September 9, 2003)
$12.73

Of Human Bondage
Of Human Bondage by Mr. William Somerset Maugham (Paperback - January 23, 2013)
$12.95

Portnoy's Complaint
Portnoy's Complaint by Philip Roth (Paperback - September 20, 1994)
$9.10
 
     

Send us feedback

How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you?
Let us know here.

Your Recently Viewed Items and Featured Recommendations 
 

After viewing product detail pages, look here to find an easy way to navigate back to pages you are interested in.