October 14, 2009

Of Human Bondage by W Somerset Maugham: Review

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Kids these days. They are worse than they ever were. We weren't like that. Yada, yada, yada. If you or someone else has said this, you need to read Of Human Bondage by W Somerset Maugham.

Philip Carey's parents dies when he is quite young and he goes to live with his uncle the minister and his wife. They have a plan for Philip: he'll go to school and also become a minister. Philip hates school, mostly because he has a deformity which makes it hard for him to make friends. He's not exactly Mr Happy Sunshine to be around either. Philip decides to leave school and bounces from one job to another. Accountant, artist. He just can't figure out who he is. His uncle and aunt are dismayed by his behaviour. To them he is acting wasteful as his small inheritance dwindles away.

He has a few disastrous love affairs. Questions his religion. Has a group of slacker friends. Makes bad decisions. He's surly, aimless and often thoughtless of others' feelings. He's young and he makes a plethora of mistakes.

It sounds like a modern story, doesn't it, except that it was written in 1915. It could be any young person at any time in history. I found myself either laughing or cringing at Philip's actions as I saw myself in some of the things he did or thought. At times I wanted to shake him. He acts very foolishly. But he also does some amazing things: living in Germany, Paris and London.

He isn't always likable. He can be cruel and he's a snob. He doesn't have any real talent and he lacks personality. Still, we can identify with him and wish that he'll succeed. While I was frustrated with him, I enjoyed watching him grow and develop as a person. He does ultimately learn from his mistakes.

Of Human Bondage is definitely a character driven novel. There is not much action. Philip lives in his head a lot of the time. I think that if you like well written but slow paced coming of age stories you'll enjoy this.

Recommended.

12 comments :

  1. I remember reading this in high school and it became one of my favorites. I'm not sure why but I guess maybe it's because he wasn't perfect and made mistakes and all those things you think you're the only one going through in high school. Thanks for the review!

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  2. Great opener to your review. It reeled me in. Just put this one on my to-read list.

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  3. I have had this one on my shelf for a long time and never really knew much about it. Glad to know more- it does sound good if old fashioned. I have to be in the right mood for a "slow" book, though.

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  4. Bookslut's blog has been mentioning this a lot, Jessa's friends are reading it and so is the guy who fills in for her sometimes.

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  5. This has been on my list for quite some time, but after reading this, it's moved up a couple spots. Thanks!

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  6. COOL! Just picked this up at the library book sale! I'm moving it up in my tbr pile too!

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  7. I like the opening of this review. there are many recurrent themes in novels from the classics to modern books...its all in how they are presented.

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  8. Kids these days. They don't know how good they have it.

    Great review, Chris!

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  9. Amanda- I could see how a young person could relate to him.

    Bookshelf- Enjoy!

    Jeane- It's a very slow read but worth it.

    Jodie- I'll have to check that out.

    Trisha- Hope you like it.

    Zeek- Good timing!

    Serena- There is a timelessness to it. Young people then are like young people now.

    Carrie- Thanks!

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  10. Great review! The only book I've read by this author is The Painted Veil, and I thought it was really good. I'll keep this one in mind.

    --Anna
    Diary of an Eccentric

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  11. I've only read The Painted Veil too and really liked it. Based on your review this must go on my list!

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  12. I loved this book. I really need to read more of Maugham's writing.

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