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Of Human Bondage (Modern Library 100 Best Novels) Paperback – March 2, 1999
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"The modern writer who has influenced me the most." - George Orwell
"One of my favourite writers." - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
"A writer of great dedication." - Graham Greene
From the Inside Flap
It is very difficult for a writer of my generation, if he is honest, to pretend indifference to the work of Somerset Maugham," wrote Gore Vidal. "He was always so entirely there."
Originally published in 1915, Of Human Bondage is a potent expression of the power of sexual obsession and of modern man's yearning for freedom. This classic bildungsroman tells the story of Philip Carey, a sensitive boy born with a clubfoot who is orphaned and raised by a religious aunt and uncle. Philip yearns for adventure, and at eighteen leaves home, eventually pursuing a career as an artist in Paris. When he returns to London to study medicine, he meets the androgynous but alluring Mildred and begins a doomed love affair that will change the course of his life. There is no more powerful story of sexual infatuation, of human longing for connection and freedom.
"Here is a novel of the utmost importance," wrote Theodore Dreiser on publication. "It is a beacon of light by which the wanderer may be guided. . . . One feels as though one were sitting before a splendid Shiraz of priceless texture and intricate weave, admiring, feeling, responding sensually to its colors and tones."
With an Introduction by Gore Vidal
Commentary by Theodore Dreiser and Graham Greene
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The good: Typography was acceptable, price was cheap, not too many typos.
The bad: First, the introduction by Jean Asta is a total throwaway, nothing but a perfunctory hack job. I hope they didn't pay her much for it. Second, there was something odd about the text size and pagination. It has page numbers, but only 412 pages. This is basically a 700-800 page book. And it was necessary to set the type size larger than normal to make it display properly on the kindle. Then, when you go to the dictionary, the type looks enormous! So that was weird, but tolerable.
I could go on to talk about the book itself, but I think I'll stop here. I'll say this much: it's different from his others, and it's extremely good. It does that tricky British thing of expressing emotions in a highly reserved way that still manages to get you crying now and then. Highly recommended.
3 stars for the digireads edition, a strong 5 stars for the book itself.
Maugham's strength in character description and delineation was powerful and essential to the story, but likely to be tedious to modern readers. His tendency to exploit imperfections in appearance or circumstance dampen the reader's enthusiasm for continuing, but the stout-hearted will be just curious enough about Philip's future to persist. It is no wonder that Holden Caulfield turned out as he did after reading "Of Human Bondage".