Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham

Of Human Bondage (Vintage Classics)

Five words from the blurb: orphan, London, study, relationships, life

It took me nearly 18 months to read this book, but I loved every page. It is so rich and detailed that I found myself regularly re-reading sections; enjoying the feeling of being immersed in a world which no longer exists.

Of Human Bondage was published in 1915 and follows Philip Carey, an orphan, as he makes his difficult journey through life. It begins with his torturous time at boarding school and progresses through his adulthood; showing us both the joy and the pain of his complex life. The plot is so wide-ranging that I won’t even attempt to summarise it – it’s easier to state that it contains snippets of all humanity.

Philip Carey is one of the most vivid characters in literature. I loved the honesty of his experiences – his love, work, and friendship were all written with an insight that is rarely seen.

The writing is outstanding throughout, with insightful passages on almost every page:

It seemed to him that all his life he had followed the ideals that other people, by their words or their writings, had instilled into him, and never the desires of his own heart. Always his course had been swayed by what he thought he should do and never by what he wanted with his whole soul to do. He put that all aside now with a gesture of impatience.

My only criticism is that some of the art sections did nothing for me. I’m afraid that his time in Paris bored me – I much preferred hearing about his relationships and his time spent studying medicine. I’m sure I’m being harsh in only rating this book 4.5 stars – with time I will probably forget the dull sections and it will grow to become an all-time favourite.

This 700-page tome isn’t a quick read, but I highly recommend it to anyone willing to put the effort into this rich, detailed book.

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8 Comments

  1. Jeane says:

    I do think I have this one on my shelf- and I never knew what it was about- just that it was a classic I felt I ought to read. It sounds rich, indeed.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jeane, I had no idea what it was about before I read it either. I think that’s the best way to approach it. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

  2. David says:

    I’m currently making my way through Maugham’s short stories and absolutely loving them. I’ve read a couple of his novels too, but not this one – it sounds wonderful.

    1. Jackie says:

      David, I’m sure you’ll love this one! I haven’t read anything else he’s written, but that will soon change – he may well become a favourite author.

      1. David says:

        I’ve just read Arnold Bennett’s “The Old Wives’ Tale” and feel the same way about him. It was SO good – I’ve already bought 5 more of his books on the strength of it. Funnily enough he was writing at the same time as Maugham.

        1. Jackie says:

          David, I haven’t heard of Arnold Bennett – I’ll go and investigate!

  3. I’m so glad you loved this. It has been on my shelves for years! I think it’s because it’s so long I keep putting off reading it. It sounds really good – I must get round to it this year!! :)

    1. Jackie says:

      Margaret, I was put off by the length too. It is a big investment of time, but it is well worth it. I hope you pull it off your shelves sometime soon.

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