Of Human Bondage

( 111 )

Overview

W. Somerset Maugham's Of Human Bondage is one of the best novels ever written. 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 it is read. Readers will find themselves choking up at times, smiling for hours, and comprehending themselves, together with woes and possibilities, better through the perspectives the novel provides. Philip Carey is born with a clubfoot, and as he grows up, ...
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Of Human Bondage (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

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Overview

W. Somerset Maugham's Of Human Bondage is one of the best novels ever written. 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 it is read. Readers will find themselves choking up at times, smiling for hours, and comprehending themselves, together with woes and possibilities, better through the perspectives the 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 portrayed better. Philip allows himself to become an instrument in the hands of cold-hearted Mildred, who repeatedly ruins herself through absurd choices, and ruins him for not withstanding his love and care. In time he finds himself snubbed, ridiculed, bereft. Though 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, 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 portrayed and the writer Norah who shows Philip true care and concern. The most charming people in the novel are the Athlneys, who not only bring life and humor into the novel, but save Philip from total destruction. The novel really highlights the virtue that lies in a simple, happy married life and the Anthlneys win over both Philip and readers with their goodness and simplicity. Philip finds love in most unexpected quarters and is surprised by how help crops up from strangers. His every experience makes both him--and the reader--richer in character. 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 spelled 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 a celebration of the deep insight and understanding of Somerset Maugham.
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Editorial Reviews

Theodore Dreiser
A gorgeous read, as interesting and valuable at the beginning as at the end. Compact of the experiences, the dreams, the hopes, the fears, the disillusionments, the ruptures, and the philosophizing of a strangely starved soul, it is a beacon light by which the wanderer may be guided.
The New Republic
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781496142252
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Publishing
  • Publication date: 3/5/2014
  • Pages: 534
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 1.08 (d)

Meet the Author

William Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) was a British playwright, novelist and short story writer. He was among the most popular writers of his era and reputedly the highest paid author during the 1930s. After losing both his parents by the age of 10, Maugham was raised by a paternal uncle who was emotionally cold. Not wanting to become a lawyer like other men in his family, Maugham eventually trained and qualified as a doctor. The first run of his first novel, Liza of Lambeth (1897), sold out so rapidly that Maugham gave up medicine to write full-time.

During the First World War, he served with the Red Cross and in the ambulance corps, before being recruited in 1916 into the British Secret Intelligence Service, for which he worked in Switzerland and Russia before the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. During and after the war, he traveled in India and Southeast Asia; all of these experiences were reflected in later short stories and novels.

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Read an Excerpt

The day broke grey and dull. The clouds hung heavily, and there was a rawness in the air that suggested snow. A woman servant came into a room in which a child was sleeping and drew the curtains. She glanced mechanically at the house opposite, a stucco house with a portico, and went to the child's bed.

'Wake up, Philip,' she said.

She pulled down the bed-clothes, took him in her arms, and carried him downstairs. He was only half awake.

'Your mother wants you,' she said.

She opened the door of a room on the floor below and took the child over to a bed in which a woman was lying. It was his mother. She stretched out her arms, and the child nestled by her side. He did not ask why he had been awakened. The woman kissed his eyes, and with thin, small hands felt the warm body through his white flannel nightgown. She pressed him closer to herself.

'Are you sleepy, darling?' she said.

Her voice was so weak that it seemed to come already from a great distance. The child did not answer, but smiled comfortably. He was very happy in the large, warm bed, with those soft arms about him. He tried to make himself smaller still as he cuddled against his mother, and he kissed her sleepily. In a moment he closed his eyes and was fast asleep. The doctor came forward and stood by the bedside.

'Oh, don't take him away yet,' she moaned.

The doctor, without answering, looked at her gravely. Knowing she would not be allowed to keep the child much longer, the woman kissed him again; and she passed her hand down his body till she came to his feet; she held the right foot in her hand and felt the five small toes; and then slowly passed her hand over the leftone. She gave a sob.

'What's the matter?' said the doctor. 'You're tired.'

She shook her head, unable to speak, and the tears rolled down her cheeks. The doctor bent down.

'Let me take him.'

She was too weak to resist his wish, and she gave the child up. The doctor handed him back to his nurse.

'You'd better put him back in his own bed.'

'Very well, sir.'

The little boy, still sleeping, was taken away. His mother sobbed now broken-heartedly.

'What will happen to him, poor child?'

The monthly nurse tried to quiet her, and presently, from exhaustion, the crying ceased. The doctor walked to a table on the other side of the room, upon which, under a towel, lay the body of a still-born child. He lifted the towel and looked. He was hidden from the bed by a screen, but the woman guessed what he was doing.

'Was it a girl or a boy?' she whispered to the nurse.

'Another boy.'

The woman did not answer. In a moment the child's nurse came back. She approached the bed.

'Master Philip never woke up,' she said.

There was a pause. Then the doctor felt his patient's pulse once more.

'I don't think there's anything I can do just now,' he said. 'I'll call again after breakfast.'

'I'll show you out, sir,' said the child's nurse.

They walked downstairs in silence. In the hall the doctor stopped.

'You've sent for Mrs Carey's brother-in-law, haven't you?'

'Yes, sir.'

'D'you know at what time he'll be here?'

'No, sir, I'm expecting a telegram.'

'What about the little boy? I should think he'd be better out of the way.'

'Miss Watkin said she'd take him, sir.'

'Who's she?'

'She's his godmother, sir. D'you think Mrs Carey will get over it, sir?'

The doctor shook his head.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 111 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(63)

4 Star

(18)

3 Star

(13)

2 Star

(9)

1 Star

(8)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 101 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2004

    A Great Read

    It's been almost two weeks since I finished reading this book and it's still in my mind. If you have lived any at all, this beautiful book will stir you. I read a friend's copy and now I have to get my own. I would get a hardcover if it were available. It is that good.

    11 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 4, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Of Human Bondage-Intellectually Provacative

    I won't lie. I was bored the first 300 pages. But the next 400 pages made up for it. Maugham built the basis for the plot and the characters slowly in this semi-autobiographical theme fest. Great for book clubs who want to discuss coming of age, changing thoughts on relegion and philosophy, human nature, one-sided love and the pursuit of happiness. Maugham managed to create tension every time Milred, the horrible object of young Philip Cary's obsession, enters a scene. Likewise, one dreads the financial demise of Phillip with equal tension. As a bookclub member for over 15 years, it is nice to find a book with real meat in it.

    10 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2003

    Incredible!

    The prose is absolutely marvelous. Nothing to jar your concentration. It deals with trials and tribulations of an orphan called Carey who is born with a club foot. The author is very clever and in fact quite ruthless in showing whole complex character of Carey. He is ashamed of his deformity, he is naïve, sentimental, foolish and in the end even harbors murderous feeling for his Uncle to get his money. The point is that a human being need not act according to his character always but can react differently to situations to suit his own interest. Maugham uses powerful prose to describe the death of Carey¿s uncle, a real tear-jerker. Highly stimulating. Now this is a big novel and the start of the novel is somewhat Dickenish , but it is successful to hold your interest from the first page. This is in contract to Victor Hugo¿s Les Miserables and even compares favorably with M M Kaye¿s Far Pavillions ( a big book) which resorts to the boring description of the Anglo-Afghan war Yawn!. A must read and indeed can come only from a complex character like Maugham himself You can also try Razor¿s Edge, but it is nothing compared to this one. A true classy classic.

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 16, 2011

    Absolutely stunning

    A towering novel. It is amazing that someone can write with such clarity and insight into human psychology. Remarkable use of the English language. The book is very well formatted with only a few misspellings.

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 19, 2005

    Fantastic Read!

    I just finished this almost 700 page novel and I had a hard time putting down! It really is Maugham's masterpiece. I enjoyed almost every page not just for the story itself but for the tidbits of philosophy that Maugham scatters throughout the work. I would definitely put this on my list of top ten reads of all time.

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 29, 2005

    It is my holly book!

    I have never been attached to a book like this one. I have read it more than 4 times and keep reading some random pages of it every day. I take it with me everywhere I go. Philip Carey is everyone of us, with a one weakness that remains an obsession throughout first 30 years. Extremely representative of inner conflicts of human beings. I believe that what happens in the book happens to me i.e. events, thoughts, emotions, the 'poor things' for other humans and it is the 'autobiography' of someone living in Yemen, that's me! I long to have the same ending as I am now 32 at Philip's age before the last chapter! I finally understood Fanny Price and Mildred, and I found Cronshaw's rug and my life pattern inscripted within!!!

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 21, 2012

    Perhaps the finest example of combining plot and story with thou

    Perhaps the finest example of combining plot and story with thought-provoking issues that I’ve ever read. The writing is lovely, Philip Carey’s story compelling, and the issues of life are brought into the story in appealing and integrated ways. I read it in the Nook anthology 25 Favorite Novels II, and want to post my thoughts, but couldn't post them there for only one of the books. I read this because respected friend JH told me this might be her favorite book of all. I can surely see why since it rose quickly to among the best I’ve ever read, too. Orphaned almost immediately after the book begins, Philip Carey and his club foot are placed in the late 19th century home of his aunt and uncle, a vicar, who are childless. He is sent to school where his previously sensitive, but agreeable self is tested. Thus his transformation from gregarious to introspective loner commences. The decisions about directions he should take with an eye to the future, lead Philip to change course more than once, and paralleling his career changes in direction are his romantic relationships, which also follow a meandering course. Philip’s first thirty years or so are written brilliantly, with insight into his inner thoughts and actions, the support characters in his life interesting but largely without their inner lives told. The settings, Germany, Paris, London, and other British locales resonate in their nineteenth century form. Among the issues in Philip’s life are some alluded to above, the changes and choices, the way being disabled affects his growing up and life, and the difficulties of being a sensitive, sometimes too sensitive, introvert and having meaningful friendships. Other issues include the importance and role of art, especially visual art, in his life, the interplay between impulses and emotion vs. philosophies of life in determining actions, the costs and benefits of being good-hearted and loyal, the effect of having or not having family, and those are all topped off by the biggie: the meaning of life. There are more issues worth mentioning, but I will close here with the observation that the first two sentences above are true at the highest levels, and this is an amazing book for both its story and its issues. Top-notch.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 17, 2011

    Really interesting and insightful story.

    This is a story about one man's struggle to find his place in the world. I love the way the story is built and the increasing maturity of the main character. Many parts of this story parallel those of Maugham's own life. Parts of it drag, but others are beautifully rendered.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 17, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Just finished it!

    The book is good. Philip let Mildred make a fool out of him over and over and over again. And I told myself that if he ends up with her at the end of the book I will throw the book into the fire when I'm done. I won't spoil the story for anyone. But I will recommend reading it. It's really good.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 27, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Heart Somerset Maugham

    This was the first book by Somerset Maugham I read, and it is a keeper!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2004

    Speechless

    Maugham's masterpiece is truly worth the read. I spent quite a while plowing through this work, convincing myself I must read on, and it was worth it. Although some parts were slow, the realization of this book's reality to life caused even the most tedious of tales to ring true. This book and this author knows what it means to be human and, therefore, imperfect and wonderful. It comes with no sappy ending, and no climactic bang peaks in the middle -- but if you read closely, Maugham's main character, Phillip, will tell you your life story as he tells his. I can still see the streets of Paris.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2003

    gut wrenchingly honest

    This novel paints a picture of the human spirit through a very truthful and seductive eye. The characters are fantastically dynamic and vulnerable.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2003

    An woNDERFUL bOOK!

    At first I thought a 600 page book would be monotonous and exhausting, but think again. I really understood what the main characters' were going through; it's probably an enlightment for many individuals who can't find the significance of life.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2001

    100 years later and it still means something...

    This book was written about 1915 about a kid growing up. As I read it, it was amazing how many things were written that I identified with and related to today. It was a great story with a lot of insights into humanity that can be ingested at one's own leisure. They are not force fed to you; the book does not hold your hand, but rather tells a story and allows one to take from what they will - wonderful!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2000

    One of the best books I've ever read

    This book is probably one of the best books I've ever read in my life, after Les Miserables and Atlas Shrugged. It's poignant and heart-rending, and beautiful all the same. The language is probably one of the best things about it, Maugham has a true gift for prose and he writes in a way that leaves you on the point of tears for poor Phillip. The fact that the novel is more or less autobiographical makes it all the more powerful, and adds to the story's beauty. Never before has someone written with such beauty of the pain and trials of being a prisoner of one's emotions, and to read this novel is to fall in love with the little boy who grows to be a man and fights with himself and with cruel society his whole life.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 31, 2011

    Lots of errors

    And symbols and weird stuff. Looked at the first 3 pages and deleted it. Buy the book for 99 cents. The free versions are all crappy.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 6, 2011

    Do not download this free version

    This download has strange characters peppered throughout the text and "Digitized by Google" also appearing randomly.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 16, 2011

    Sort of recommended

    I am a girl from the "hood. I have some college education and figure myself not too wordly on language from the 19th century. I must admit that I don't know what they are talking about a lot of the time, but when the story goes toward dialog, it is a good story. I can't believe that Phillip can be so gullable to acquiesce to Mildred's every need at times and I just wanted to slap the crap out of him...but I know what he went through. I've been that pathetic in my life at times myself. I thank GOD that I am over it though (not to mention how much money it has cost me to get here though) I can understand his infatuation. This is a good story but it takes one a long time to get through it. I must admit that I've seen the movie starring Bette Davis and Lesley (whatever his name from Gone With the Wind) and I would love to see the movie again. I wanted to see what the director did with the story applied against the book story. I do remember that the movie has nothing to do with the characters that Phillip interacted with in the book though...that would have made a very boring movie I think. Ok, that's my take on it anyway.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2003

    Absolutely worth the read.

    What an incredible novel! I wish I was half as articulate as W. Somerset Maugham, so that I could adequately express how much I loved this book. As another reviewer previously stated, the first 300 pages or so are a little slow but I definitely think that as a whole, it's all worth it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 23, 2001

    Excellent

    The first half of the novel seems a bit deliberate, but the reader only realizes that it is the slow events of the first half that lead to the experiences that Phillip encounters in the second half. The first half of the book took me about 2-3 months to read; the second half took me 6 days. It was simply hard to put down as Maugham's style clearly facilitates an easy feeling of sympathy for Philip. The philosophical discussions and reassessments that Philip has are very well thought out and expressed. It is simply a great book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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