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Of Human Bondage (Bantam Classics) Mass Market Paperback – June 1, 1991
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"The modern writer who has influenced me the most." - George Orwell
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The first and most autobiographical of Maugham's masterpieces. It is the story of Philip Carey, an orphan eager for life, love and adventure. After a few months studying in Heidelberg, and a brief spell in Paris as a would-be artist, he settles in London to train as a doctor where he meets Mildred, the loud but irresistible waitress with whom he plunges into a tortured and masochistic affair.
"From the Trade Paperback edition.
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This is the first book that I have read by Mr. Maughan. It will not be the last. I loved this book.
The book is written in a straight forward, simple style that moves the story along at a fast clip. Maugham consistently violates the current taboo that tells young writers to "show don't tell." Maugham tells a lot and the technique works amazingly well. The book also serves as a historical document, detailing life in London, Paris and Germany in the 1890s. Overall is a great story about people the reader really grows to care about as the plot progresses. The emphasis on story telling and the absence of literary flourishes and tricks makes this a delightful reading experience. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves a big, old fashioned novel about people and ideas that matter.
The story follows the hapless Phillip Carey, as he makes his way through adolescence and young adulthood. He learns from an early age that life is brimming with tragedy: orphanned and club-footed, he is taken in by his vicar uncle and later attends a religious boarding school. These formative years, in which he experiences constant disappointment, have an irrevocable impact on his spirituality and worldview; God no longer exists for him and he's forced to search for another meaning to life. He travels through Europe, jumping from one occupation to another, ever indecisive about his calling. The novel carries through all his ups and downs, from the stimulation of Paris to the stagnation of London, from painter to healer.
He experiences one existential crisis after another, as he goes through all his trials and tribulations. An especially bitter one for him is his dalliance with the femme fatale who becomes an object of obsession for him. Mildred is an odious human being, embodying just about every negative quality imaginable, and she manipulates poor Phillip every chance she gets. Never has unrequited love been quite so embraced by anyone other than Phillip. But it is only through her pettiness and selfishness that Phillip can realize who he is.
As we see in the course of the novel, the world is a rich tapestry, and we must discover its meaning for ourselves. Phillip eventually realizes what this is, and it is this realization that allows him to endure the pain and emotional turmoil of it. It is truly an ordeal at times. But he learns to embrace another possibility, one pregnant with hope, a counterpoint to tragedy and misfortune.
Besides Phillip and Mildred, the novel is rife with Dickensian characters, from the lovable Thorpe Athelny to the histrionic Miss Wilkinson to the poetic Cronshaw and the diffuse Hayward. Maugham's heart was always in the nineteenth century, as Gore Vidal notes. The influence of that era's literature and art is unmistakeable in every facet of his writing and the characters, in particular. They are a heart-warming cast that play off of Phillip's idiosyncracies and enrich all of his life experiences.
This novel has my unreserved praise. Here is the bildungsroman at its finest, a novel that rightfully deserves its place in the canon. It exceeded all my expectations and left me craving more. What every book should be.
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This story about a young man’s education and travels ends with him having a life-changing epiphany.Read more