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The Razor's Edge Mass Market Paperback – 1990


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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Mandarin (1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0749303506
  • ISBN-13: 978-0749303501
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (355 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #707,052 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Seeing his best friend, young and full of life die changed Larry forever.
Dean Kane, M.D.
I love the way Maugham places himself into the story as observer, and his incredible insight of the wonderful characters.
Mary J. Schaudt
I gave Razor's Edge five starts because it was a wonderful book, something I had not enjoyed over a very long time.
Engjellushe Shqarri

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

241 of 247 people found the following review helpful By E. Karasik on January 30, 2005
Format: Paperback
The Razor's Edge is an unusual amalgam -- three-quarters witty social commentary about American and European society, one-quarter Eastern philosophy -- bound together by Maugham's impeccable prose -- almost as though Henry James and Hermann Hesse had collaborated. The book contrasts the adventures of Larry, a seeker who travels widely in search of life's meaning, with that of his former fiancee, Isabelle, who sacrifices her love for Larry in favor of wealth and social standing. While the book is an odd literary chimera, the result is supremely satisfying. One gets to luxuriate in Maugham's biting descriptions of the social milieu in Paris, the Riviera, and London, while simultaneously being exposed to some much bigger issues presented in the context of Larry's intriguing quest for enlightenment. Along the way there is beauty, degradation, betrayal, forgiveness, art, fashion, turgid fascination with France's demimonde, and lots of other juicy material. A great read -- fun yet substantive -- like eating a fluffy eclair that actually has nutritional value!
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240 of 254 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Leach HALL OF FAME on August 17, 2001
Format: Paperback
William Somerset Maugham is considered one of the best authors of the 20th century. After reading this book, I can understand why. His grasp of the human condition is simply phenomenal. He is one of those rare authors that can make his characters leap off the page and become living, breathing creatures. The introduction to this Penguin edition spends much time trying to place the fictional characters into the context of Maugham’s life. I’m sure the characters in this story are somewhat based on real people, as any author worth his salt always draws on real experience to create a story. Personally, I couldn’t care less if these characters were based on real people, as it wouldn’t make them any less interesting to me.
“The Razor’s Edge” really has a simple message. It asks us to reflect on how we lead our lives. Do we follow the masses or seek inner fulfillment? Is it right or wrong to drop out of society and follow our inner selves? Maugham makes us ponder these questions as he introduces us to his characters ... When I think of the overall plot of the book, even after reading it, it doesn’t really seem that interesting. But when I think all of the little things within the book, I realize how excellent the novel is. Read this book, even if it is the only Maugham book you ever read (which is a pretty pretentious statement on my part, as this is the only one I’ve read). The prose is excellent, and the psychological insights are really amazing. Recommended.
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99 of 103 people found the following review helpful By Tony Mayo, Top Executive Coach on February 24, 1999
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Razor's Edge is often described as the story of Larry, a war veteran who forsakes a comfortable life in Chicago "society" for a vague spiritual quest. It is better appreciated as a portrait of his acquaintences, whose conventional lifestyles are starkly contrasted to the path walked by the seeker. Some readers have wished to know more of Larry and criticize the space and attention Maugham lavished upon the "ancillary" characters. The Razor's Edge instead reveals much about the spiritual path by focusing on people more like the typical reader, people who do not give up materialistic Western striving. The best way to see Larry is to look at what he is not.
This narrative technique succeeds wonderfully in the masterful hands of author W. Somerset Maugham, best known for Of Human Bondage. Rather than simply lay out the details of Larry's explorations and development, which, being spiritual and internal, would be rather dull to watch, Maugham illuminates Larry by dissecting the contrasting behavior of his associates.
Maugham lavishes narrative care and attention less on the figure of Larry the seeker, but on his ground, those who embraced the life of conventional society without a thought for spirituality. Maugham shows us several possible outcomes of such an unexamined life, from the indulgent businessman to the fragile social climber to the dissolute substance abuser. The contrasts are presented realistically and without sermon yet are no less stark for their subtlety. These characters are a rare delight: fictional creations with genuine life, who make choices, have unpredictable effects on one another, and grow as the novel develops.
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43 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Nelson on October 29, 2005
Format: Paperback
This is my favorite book of all time. I've read it several times and seen both movie versions. In fact, it was the unusual, but excellent 1984 Bill Murray portrayal of Larry which made this book known to me in the first place. Here is the story of several characters, some likable and some not, in the post World War I era. Larry, a happy, go-lucky twenty-something pilot (in the movie he's an ambulance driver) returns from the war distraught and disturbed. Before the war he was engaged to Isabel and was going to return and work in his soon to be father in-law's office as stock-broker with his war volunteer buddy Gray. His friends and connections back home would provide him with a secure and comfortable future and he had it made. But unlike some modern day college graduate who's spent their education earning a pre-fab, slam-dunk business degree so as to quickly land a high-paying job, launching themselves into the American dream of yuppy-land, Larry takes a left turn. To Isabel, his friends and family it seems like a wrong turn. To others he will come to meet, Larry has avoided a certain car wreck.

What makes "The Razor's Edge" a classic is that you as a reader get to decide for yourself the wisdom of each character's decisions. Somerset Maugham definitely focuses a lot on wealthy, class-oriented Eliot, who seems to be closest in personality to the author himself; but it's obvious too, that a character like Larry was both scarry and intriguing to him. At times it seems like Maugham is mocking Larry, but in others there is a begrudging respect and admiration for him. This ambiguity creates a unique reading experience, especially for those who've read a biography of Maugham (I recommend Ted Morgan's biography).
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