Of Human Bondage is one of the greatest novels of modern times, and it is certainly Maugham's greatest achievement. It was published in 1914, when Maugham was at the height of his creative powers. The story concerns Philip Carey, afflicted at birth with a club foot, and his passionate search for truth in a cruel world. We follow his growth to manhood, his educational progress, his first loves, and the wrenching tragedies and disappointments that life has in store for him. In some of the finest prose of the 20th century, Maugham has presented us with the timeless story of one man's search for the meaning of life.
One of the main themes of the novel is the concept of ambivalence: how we are simultaneously attracted to - and repulsed by - people, objects, thoughts, and actions. Although this was not a new concept in 1914, in the hands of Maugham it was raised to a pitch of literary perfection.
Maugham thought of himself essentially as an entertainer, not as a moral philosopher or preacher. There is in his work an objective cynicism that is almost shocking at times. It is almost embarrassing to read Maugham's frank description of Philip Carey's innermost thoughts and Mildred Roger's callous disregard for anything that does not contribute to her narrow sensuality. But in the end, it is as an entertainer that we enjoy Maugham. His lively conversations and vivid descriptions will keep you listening in fascination.
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One of the greats