Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Of Human Bondage

Rate this book
From a tormented orphan with a clubfoot, Philip Carey grows into an impressionable young man with a voracious appetite for adventure and knowledge. His cravings take him to Paris at age eighteen to try his hand at art, then back to London to study medicine. But even so, nothing can sate his nagging hunger for experience. Then he falls obsessively in love, embarking on a disastrous relationship that will change his life forever.…

Marked by countless similarities to Maugham’s own life, his masterpiece is “not an autobiography,” as the author himself once contended, “but an autobiographical novel; fact and fiction are inexorably mingled; the emotions are my own.”

684 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published January 1, 1915

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Maeve Binchy

231 books4,254 followers
Maeve Binchy was born on 28 May 1940 in Dalkey, County Dublin, Ireland, the eldest child of four. Her parents were very positive and provided her with a happy childhood. Although she described herself as an overweight child, her parents' attitude gave her the confidence to accept herself for who she was.

She studied at University College Dublin and was a teacher for a while. She also loved traveling, and this was how she found her niche as a writer. She liked going to different places, such as a Kibbutz in Israel, and she worked in a camp in the United States. While she was away, she sent letters home to her parents. They were so impressed with these chatty letters from all over the world that they decided to send them to a newspaper. After these letters were published, Maeve left teaching and became a journalist.

Maeve married Gordon Snell, writer and editor of children's books. When they were struggling financially, Light a Penny Candle was published, which made her an overnight success. Many of her books, such as Echoes, are set in the past in Ireland. Some of her later novels, such as Evening Class, take place in more modern times. Her books often deal with people who are young, fall in love, have families, and deal with relationship or family problems. The main characters are people whom readers can empathise with.

She passed away on 30 July 2012, at the age of 72.

Her cousin Dan Binchy is also a published writer, as is her nephew Chris Binchy.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
23,768 (43%)
4 stars
18,822 (34%)
3 stars
8,554 (15%)
2 stars
2,450 (4%)
1 star
1,019 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,812 reviews
Profile Image for Ben.
74 reviews924 followers
January 12, 2010
I fell in love with this book; it spoke to me, and I will aways have a strong affection for it. After three weeks of opening its pages virtually every night, I now find myself saddened that I can no longer turn to it. How can anything else compare?

Of Human Bondage is a classic in every positive sense of the word. Aside from The Brothers Karamazov, it is the only book I've read, whereupon finishing, I was able to say to myself: "This novel is life itself: it contains all of its complexities, emotions, and meaning. Everything that you need to know about life is in this book. All that is life, is this."

The main character, Philip Carrey, (who was born with a clubfoot and a taciturn temperment), is a different sort of lad; yet he manages to be understandable and human. He is intelligent and introspective, has a strong passion for the arts and adventure -- and, though he's rather introverted, even hardheaded at times -- means well and would do just about anything for his fellow human being. Being inside Philip's head and watching the ramifications of his decisions as he grows into a man, is at times harrowing; other times, vitalizing: it conjures up many emotions: the reader receives a full and enriching experience of a life truly lived.

Maugham's wikipedia page is slightly critical of his writing, stating that he’s lost critical acclaim as a great author, and that few modern-day writers count him as an influence. This is sad, and upon reading it, I was both astounded and appalled, because the prose in this novel is exquisite. I was constantly swept off my feet by Maugham's ability to display the wretched and beautiful in smoothly written, truthful ways.

"But he could not tell what that significance was. It was like a message which it was very important for him to receive, but it was given him in an unknown tongue, and he could not understand. He was always seeking for a meaning in life, and here it seemed to him that a meaning was offered; but it was obscure and vague. He was profoundly troubled. He saw what looked like the truth as by flashes of lightning on a dark, stormy night you might see a mountain range. He seemed to see that a man need not leave his life to chance, but that his will was powerful; he seemed to see that self-control might be as passionate and as active as the surrender to passion; he seemed to see that the inward life might be as manifold, as varied, as rich with experience, as the life of one who conquered realms and explored unknown lands."

This novel had its affect on me for many different reasons, but two personal, empirical reasons quickly come to mind. One is that having had problems myself, for a period of time, due to a physical deformity of sorts, I was able to relate to Philip's embarrasment and resentment of his clubfoot, and how it affected his personality and his dealings with others. I remember thinking to myself, "How does Maugham express these emotions so perfectly? He must have had a similar experience himself." And sure enough, I later found through wikipedia (heh) that Maugham had a very serious stuttering problem that made him a bit of an outcast.

The other personal, empirical reason is that for a period of time, while in college, I fell hard for a girl that had no interest in me whatsoever. I lied to myself that she liked me, I kept treating her wonderfully, and held onto – and practically lived upon -- her every word. Pathetic, really: very pathetic. Philip went through this -- more drastically, and with a much colder woman than was my college crush -- but still, it brought back memories and emotions: I could empathize: I could relate. (In fact, on a number of occasions as Philip was dealing with this, I found myself gritting my teeth and wincing.)

Philip Carrey is one of only a few literary characters that I know will stay with me ten years from now; he is imprinted within me. With all of Philip's difficult experiences (and the manifold of deep emotions felt therein), Of Human Bondage is the perfect novel with relation to self discovery and growing up. In addtion, it has all the existentialism, philosophical inquiry, and ideas of a great Dostoevsky novel.

The way I felt about this book can, in part, be articulated from something Philip himself said:

"Partly for pleasure, because it's a habit and I'm just as uncomfortable if I don't read as if I don't smoke, and partly to know myself. When I read a book I seem to read it with my eyes only, but now and then I come across a passage, perhaps only a phrase, which has a meaning for ME, and it becomes part of me; I've got out of the book all that's any use to me, and I can't get anything more if I read it a dozen times. You see, it seems to me, one's like a closed bud, and most of what one reads and does has no effect at all; but there are certain things that have a peculiar significance for one, and they open a petal; and the petals open one by one; and at last the flower is there."

I realize that in this quote Philip was speaking of specific parts of books; how certain passages and ideas stick with him over time; that they can reveal parts of himself and, in conjunction with other passages from other books, slowly unfold what life to him truly means. But you see, I feel slightly differently than Philip about this: I believe that there are individual novels out there that, when taken as a whole, can provide the reader with an overall truth about life that goes far beyond any collection of passages from various reads. These novels are so rare and special, and their affect so profound, that one is lucky to come across a few of them in the course of an entire life.

And this, my friends, to me, was one of those novels.
Profile Image for Trevor.
1,283 reviews21.5k followers
November 7, 2009
A lot of this book is quite harrowing – you know the drill, young boy orphaned and alone in the world and being brought up by people without affection. Public school nightmares, a child with a deformity that causes him shame all his life.

I was not surprised to learn that Maugham was homosexual, or bisexual, or trisexual – or whatever it was that he was. There are subtle hints to the fact throughout the book.

Young Philip, the central character (rather than protagonist, I think – as there is something of the antagonist about him too) fascinated me. His loss of faith, for example, happens so simply that it had a real ring of truth about it – much of the book is autobiographical and this seemed particularly so here – well, to me anyway.

This was not always the case. There were things that happened in the book where I struggled with the suddenness of his ‘discoveries’ – where Philip finally determines the meaning of life from a Persian carpet, for example – the meaning being pretty much Nietzschean pointlessness relieved by recognising life as a work of art – seemed a little sudden for me. I tend not to have such revelational moments in my life, but I guess I should not deny them to others.

His furious passion and ardent love for Mildred – a slut and callous bitch if there ever was one – is all a bit much. But if the definition of a good novel is how often it gets one to call out, “No Philip, not that!” then this is a great novel. Again, I’ve been lucky in that I’ve never loved someone completely in the way Philip does – not in a way that is insensible to how terribly they have treated me and how completely indifferent they are to me. So, perhaps, in this too, I am lesser than Philip.

Maugham defined himself as ‘among the first of the second rate’ – Philip goes off to study painting in Paris and leaves when he realises he will never be more than mediocre as a painter – and the life of penury that being a painter would necessitate could hardly be justified if he was only ever going to be second rate. The question – what is art and how does one know one has the gift – is a constant theme of the early part of the book.

The conclusion is hard to say – there is much talk in the book that reminds me of Wordsworth, the artist shows the world how to see and how to feel. But there is also a terrible pointlessness to art. In the end I think art isn’t what one does because what is produced is good or bad, it is what one does because there is no other choice. And for most of us there are always other choices.

Repeatedly, as someone is about to die, Philip is struck by how pointless their lives have been. In the end Philip is grateful for his acceptance of the meaninglessness of his existence – which reminds me of that quote from Stendhal, “God’s only excuse is that he does not exist.” There is a terribly interesting scene towards the end of the novel where this is brought home with full power. It is a favourite ploy of the faithful to think that atheists on their death beds convert to join in hope of salvation. While his uncle is dying, and Philip has been sitting contemplating murdering the old man to relieve his own intolerable poverty, he knows the old man is almost panic stricken at the idea of losing his life. This resolves differently to how I expected – leaving room for the faithful to celebrate at the comfort their faith offers in the end – but it seems a somewhat hollow victory when their own saviour’s last words were – “Oh Father, Father, why hast thou forsaken me?”

The central idea of this book is that life has no meaning – no overarching meaning – that most of life is pain and bitterness and at times punctuated by tiny moments of joy and happiness – and these ought to be accepted and celebrated equally – both the pain and the joy – as part of the tapestry of life. Love is almost impossible and is never equal – it is a sad and bitter vision.

In the end the real lesson seems to be to live in the present. I would have liked to have read this book years ago, I’m terribly sorry I have only read it now for the first time – I would have liked to have read it when I was 18, when I would have had no means to understand it. I would have liked to have had it with me during darker times than this. It was quite a read and I enjoyed it, if enjoyed is at all the right word, very much.

Profile Image for Vit Babenco.
1,400 reviews3,279 followers
April 27, 2020
Of Human Bondage is written in a charming language so it is a great pleasure to read every sentence in the book.
Life seemed an inextricable confusion. Men hurried hither and thither, urged by forces they knew not; and the purpose of it all escaped them; they seemed to hurry just for hurrying’s sake.

The riches of the novel are in its characters – there are many of all sorts and Somerset Maugham portrays his personages with the scrupulous psychological precision.
Insensibly he formed the most delightful habit in the world, the habit of reading: he did not know that thus he was providing himself with a refuge from all the distress of life; he did not know either that he was creating for himself an unreal world which would make the real world of everyday a source of bitter disappointment.

Somerset Maugham leads his hero from early childhood to mellow adulthood and he guides his protagonist through all the vicissitudes of life: ups and downs, welfare and penury, qualms and assuredness, love and loathing and further on…
Philip did not surrender himself willingly to the passion that consumed him. He knew that all things human are transitory and therefore that it must cease one day or another. He looked forward to that day with eager longing. Love was like a parasite in his heart, nourishing a hateful existence on his life’s blood; it absorbed his existence so intensely that he could take pleasure in nothing else… This love was a torment, and he resented bitterly the subjugation in which it held him; he was a prisoner and he longed for freedom.

Love is capable to bring heavenly delights but unrequited love may easily turn into a pernicious torture…
Profile Image for Kelly.
14 reviews6 followers
November 6, 2007
Has one of literature's great lines about reading:

"Insensibly he formed the most delightful habit in the world, the habit of reading: he did not know that thus he was providing himself with a refuge from all the distress of life; he did not know either that he was creating for himself an unreal world which would make the real world of every day a source of bitter disappointment."
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56k followers
November 4, 2021
(Book 741 from 1001 books) - Of Human Bondage, William Somerset Maugham

Of Human Bondage is a 1915 novel by William Somerset Maugham.

The book begins with the death of Helen Carey, the much beloved mother of nine-year-old Philip Carey. Philip has a club foot and his father had died a few months before. Now orphaned, he is sent to live with his aunt and uncle, Louisa and William Carey. ...

عنوانهای چاپ شده در ایران: «پیرامون اس‍ارت‌ ب‍ش‍ری»؛ «پای بندی های انسانی»؛ «اسارت بشر»؛ «اسارت بشری»؛ نویسنده: ویلیام سامرست موام؛ (نشر چشمه)، تاریخ نخستین خوانش روز بیست و هفتم ماه فوریه سال1999میلادی

عنوان: پیرامون اس‍ارت‌ ب‍ش‍ری؛ نویسنده: ویلیام س‍ام‍رس‍ت‌ م‍وام‌‏‫؛ مت‍رج‍م: م‍حمود محرر خمامی؛ تهران بهمن، سال1363؛ در397ص؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان بریتانیا - سده 20م

عنوان: پ‍ی‍رام‍ون‌ اس‍ارت‌ ب‍ش‍ری‌؛ نویسنده: ویلیام س‍ام‍رس‍ت‌‌ م‍وام‌‏‫؛ مت‍رج‍م: م‍ه‍دی‌ اف‍ش‍ار؛ تهران، نشر آبی، سال1364؛ در دو جلد؛ در928ص؛ چاپ دیگر تهران، مهدی افشار، چاپ دوم سال1366؛ در1077ص؛ چاپ دیگر تهران، نشر سمیر، سال1383؛ در1077ص؛ شابک9646552315؛ ویراست دوم تهران، نشر سمیر، سال1393؛ در944ص؛ شابک9789648940268؛

عنوان: اس‍ارت‌ ب‍ش‍ر؛ نویسنده: ویلیلم س‍ام‍رس‍ت‌ م‍وام‌‏‫؛ مت‍رج‍م: م‍ن‍وچ‍ه‍ر آرام‌؛ تهران کوشش، سال1364؛ در575ص؛

عنوان: پ‍ای‌ ب‍ن‍دی‌ه‍ای‌ ان‍س‍ان‍ی؛ نویسنده: ویلیام س‍ام‍رس‍ت‌ م‍وآم‌؛ مت‍رج‍م: ع‍ب‍دال‍ح‍س‍ی‍ن‌ ش‍ری‍ف‍ی‍ان؛ تهران، نشر چشمه، سال1364؛ در دو جلد؛ چاپ دوم سال1368؛ چاپ چهارم سال1388؛ در861ص؛ شابک9789646194571؛

عنوان: پایبندی‌های انسانی؛ نویسنده: ویلیام سامرست موام؛ مترجم: شهرزاد بیات‌ موحد؛ تهران انتشارات ماهی، سال‏‫1396؛ در788ص؛ شابک9789642093090؛

کتاب «پای‌بندی‌های انسانی» اتوبیوگرافی نیست، اما داستانی به گونه‌ ی اتوبیوگرافی است؛ حقایق و افسانه به‌ طور جدایی ناپذیری در هم آمیخته شده‌ اند؛ پسرکی که در یک خانواده ی متوسط «انگلیسی» به دنیا آمده، با مرگ پدر پزشکش، در کنار مادر بیمارش روزگار میگذراند؛ این پسر که دارای معلولیتی مادرزادی در پای خود است، پس از مرگ مادر، به عمویش سپرده میشود؛ عموی پسرک، کشیشی متعصب و سختگیر است، و در خانه ی او پسرک کوچک و معلول، تحت تعلیمات عاری از عواطف او، رشد کرده، و به مدرسه میرود؛ ماجراهای اصلی زندگی او، پس از اقدام او به زندگی در «لندن» برای کار و ادامه ی تحصیل، و آشنایی او با یک پیشخدمت آغاز میشود؛

نقل از متن کتاب: (احساسات از آن خودم است، اما نه تمامی آن، رویدادهای اتفاق افتاده‌ ای که، به توصیف آمده است؛ بعضی از آن‌ها، نه از زندگی خودم که به قهرمان داستان انتقال یافته، بلکه از زندگی کسانی است، که با آنان صمیمی و نزدیک بوده‌ ام؛ کتاب همان شد، که من خواسته بودم، و هنگامی عرضه شد که دنیا، دست به گریبان جنگی وحشت‌ آفرین، و سر در گریبان رنج‌ها، و بیم‌ها نهاده بود، و ن��ی‌توانست به سرگذشت یک شخصیت داستانی، توجهی مبذول دارد؛ آنگاه بود که خودم را از فشار درد و ناشادی خاطرات، و یادهایی که شکنجه‌ ام می‌دادند رهایی یافتم.)؛ پایان نقل؛

عشق واقعی عشق یکسویه است بدون هیچ چشم داشت و پاداشی؛ سامرست موآم

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 28/09/1398هجری خورشیدی؛ 12/08/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Lisa.
974 reviews3,328 followers
August 18, 2021
I love the main character in this book so much, I was sad to say a final goodbye to him after spending 700 perfect pages with him.

"Of Human Bondage" is now among my favourite books of all times, inspiring so many reflections that my copy of the book is full of scrap paper with quotes and references.

Somerset Maugham explains in his introduction that he felt compelled to write down this story as it was tormenting his memory, in order to free himself from the ghosts of the past. It is not strictly autobiographical, but reflects on his experience. As a successful playwright, he must have been well acquainted with the theatre device of catharsis in the Aristotelian sense of the word, and in a way, the character of Philip Carey might have eased the author's pain and relieved him from his struggles with himself.
But Philip Carey is NOT just a imaginative portrait of a specific person, he is the very essence of a questioning, searching human being, experimenting with life and its meaning.
Even if Philip comes to the conclusion in the end that life has no meaning, this is not to be taken as defeat. In fact, it gives him the uttermost freedom to create his own life pattern, choosing form and colour freely and according to mood and circumstances. After Philip broke off his art studies in Paris, someone told him that those two years were "a waste of time", and Philip answered something to the effect of: "Not at all, for I have learned to see the shadow of that tree branch on the grass and the blue sky. I wouldn't have been able to see my environment without those experiences!"

I find so much wisdom in that attitude. Learning to see the world more fully, and with pleasure, can never be a waste of time, just because it does not lead to a professional development. Reading "Of Human Bondage" does not help me professionally, but it makes me feel more alive.
The eternal drama of desire and disappointment in love reminded me of Sartre's conception of Hell, where all characters are bound by unreciprocated desire. Somerset Maugham's outlook is somewhat less depressing, though, as life goes on and new possibilities open up all the time. In fact, the reader leaves Philip at the moment when he finally decides to get married, and anyone who has embarked on the adventure of marriage knows that the story does not end there. Somerset Maugham could easily have filled another 700 pages on Philip's accumulated experience during the first ten years of marriage and possible fatherhood, not to mention old age. I would not have wanted a sequel to this story under any circumstances, as it is perfectly complete such as it is, but the message clearly is: life goes on, it has no objective meaning, but you are in charge of creating the pattern you prefer:

"Whatever happened to him now would be more motive to add to the complexity of the pattern, and when the end approached he would rejoice in its completion. It would be a work of art, and it would be none the less beautiful because he alone knew of its existence, and with his death it would at once cease to be.
Philip was happy."

This idea of life as a work of art, meaningless but beautiful, reminds me of Oscar Wilde, a contemporary of this novel. "All Art Is Quite Useless", he said, in full praise of the only thing that exists without any practical reason, solely for the pleasure of wit and beauty.

Must-read! Love it!
Profile Image for Joe Valdez.
478 reviews785 followers
March 13, 2018
The best novel I've read that wrestles with the meaning of life was once The Razor's Edge by W. Somerset Maugham. That honor now belongs to Of Human Bondage, written by Maugham thirty-nine years earlier. This voluminous, passionate epic of ideas and expectations concerns one Philip Carey, born with a club foot in London in the 1880s as he journeys into adulthood, encumbering relationships and suspending them, searching for his calling and his own answer to the question posed by so many 20th century artists, but few as eloquently as Maugham. What Is Life?

Philip is introduced as a child in 1885. His father, a surgeon with a good practice, died unexpectedly of blood poisoning. He's survived by a pregnant wife in fragile health and a son, Philip. A poor manager of money, Mrs. Carey encounters more misfortune when she delivers a stillborn son and passes away. Philip's paternal uncle William, vicar of Blackstable, arrives to take custody of his nephew, raising him sixty miles from London with his wife, Louisa. The childless couple are all thumbs when it comes to parenting. The vicar is a thrifty, obtuse man while his wife suffers quietly under his lack of affection, but raise their nephew as if he was their own.

Raised in the vicarage, where he bathes no more than once per week in a tub near the kitchen boiler, in the same manner his uncle, aunt and their maid Mary Ann do on opposite days of the week, Philip has few peers his own age, and grows into the solitary, often lonely life of an only child. Forbidden from playing games on Sundays and brought to tears over being assigned the memorization of collects from the prayer book, Philip is handed an illustrated book his aunt sneaks from her husband's study. A lifelong passion for books begins.

One day a good fortune befell him, for he hit upon Lane's translation of The Thousand Nights and a Night. He was captured first by the illustrations, and then he began to read, to start with, the stories that dealt with magic, and then the others; and those he liked he read again and again. He could think of nothing else. He forgot the life about him. He had to be called two or three times before he would come to his dinner. Insensibly he formed the most delightful habit in the world, the habit of reading: he did not know that thus he was providing himself with a refuge from all the distress of life; he did not know either that he was creating for himself an unreal world which would make the real world of the every day a source of bitter disappointment. Presently he began to read other things. His brain was precocious. His uncle and aunt, seeing that he occupied himself and neither worried nor made a noise, ceased to trouble themselves about him. Mr. Carey had so many books that he did not know them, and as he read little he forgot the odd lots he had bought at one time and another because they were cheap. Haphazard among the sermons and homilies, the travels, the lives of the Saints, the Fathers, the histories of the church, were old-fashioned novels; and these Philip at last discovered. He chose them by their titles, and the first he read was The Lancashire Witches, and then he read The Admirable Crichton, and then many more. Whenever he started a book with two solitary travelers riding along the brink of a desperate ravine he knew he was safe.

At the age of nine, Philip is sent to King's School at Tercanbury, where the neighboring clergy send their sons for their primary education. His club foot rules him out of sports and is often made a target of ridicule among the other boys, but even after his deformity is accepted and ignored, it remains a source of sensitivity for him. Accepting everything he reads, Philip believes the Bible and becomes a devout boy. Assured by his uncle and others that the power of faith can move mountains, Philip prays for God to give him a normal foot. The lack of results leads Philip to question for the first time what he's read or been told.

Philip develops a cutting sense of humor and is ultimately befriended by a boy named Rose whose attention flatters Philip and before leading to jealousy. When Rose abandons Philip for a new best friend, Philip loses all interest in school or sours on a scholarship to Oxford. He announces his desire to study in Germany and resisting all attempts by adults to sway Philip to finish one thing before he starts another, the boy eventually gets his wish. A friend of his aunt's recommends a boarding house in Heidelberg run by a professor.

In Heidelberg, free to rise and study at his leisure, Philip learns some German, a bit of French but is mostly schooled by the personalities of the boarders he meets. An Englishman named Hayward is son of a county judge; a lover of literature and Roman Catholicism, he's an idealist, and recommends many books to his new acolyte, which Philip devours. An American philosophy student named Weeks sees Hayward less as a poet and more of a waster, and with deliberate self-assurance, calls the Englishman out on his inconsistencies during their fireside chats. Philip continues his education.

One of the things that Philip had heard definitely stated was the the unbeliever was a wicked and vicious man; but Weeks, though he believed in hardly anything that Philip believed, led a life of Christian purity. Philip had received little kindness in his life, and he was touched by the American's desire to help him: once when a cold kept him in bed for three days, Weeks nursed him like a mother. there was neither vice nor wickedness in him, but only sincerity and loving-kindness. It was evidently possible to be virtuous and unbelieving.

Returning to Blackstable after three months, Philip meets Miss Wilkinson, daughter of his uncle's last rector, whose exact age becomes a frustrating riddle to the boy as he becomes taken with her. Having worked as a governess in Berlin and Paris, Miss Wilkinson thrills Philip with her tales of being seduced by an art student in the City of Lights. Philip sets his mind to seducing the older woman. As for his future, Philip sits on a meager fortune of only two thousand pounds, and eager to go to London, it is recommended by the family lawyer that Philip apprentice as a chartered accountant.

Philip greets loneliness in London and what at that time, seems like misery. Socializing with few people other than his fellow clerks, he's bored to death by the work. He begins making sketches on company stationary to pass the time and while a career in accounting begins to look dim, he's compelled by Hayward to devote his life to the only two things that matter: love and art. The idea grabs hold of Philip and when his apprenticeship at the accounting firm expires, he bucks the expectations of his uncle and with some financial assistance from his aunt, is off on his next great adventure: studying art in Paris.

As in his last foreign experience, Philip falls in immediately with his fellow students in Paris. He grows close with a conceited, disagreeable art student named Fanny Price. Philip finds her paintings atrocious and her hygiene nearly as bad, while her poorly communicated affections for him grow. Philip wonders whether he has what it takes to be a successful artist and falls under the spell of a penniless drunk and writer named Cronshaw who the art students tell knew all the greats. Cronshaw tells Philip where he can find the answers to all his questions.

"Have you ever been to the Cluny, the museum? There you will see Persian carpets of the most exquisite hue and of a pattern the beautiful intricacy of which delights and amazes the eye. In them you will see the mystery and the sensual beauty of the East, the roses of Hafiz and the wine-cup of Omar; but presently you will see more. You were asking just now what was the meaning of life. Go and look at those Persian carpets, and one of these days the answer will come to you."

"You are cryptic," said Philip.

"I am drunk," answered Cronshaw.

W. Somerset Maugham saw Of Human Bondage published in 1915, but if fleeting mention of year was redacted within the novel, it would be impossible to determine whether his story takes place in 1900, 1950 or 2000. The book is completely devoid of trends, fashions or popular culture and is more passionate, witty and vivacious for it. Edith Wharton is one of my favorite authors, but even with her I feel claustrophobia of the early 20th century, as if squeezed inside an hour glass and being smothered. Maugham transcends era. He could be writing about characters and conversations taking place at the corner coffeehouse. His wisdom is nearly as impressive as his language.

It is a mixed lot which enters upon the medical profession, and naturally there are some who are lazy and reckless. They think it is an easy life, idle away a couple of years; and then, because their funds come to an end or because angry parents refuse any longer to support them, drift away from the hospital. Others find the examinations too hard for them; one failure after another robs them of their nerve; and, panic-stricken, they forget as soon as they come into the forbidding buildings of the Conjoint Board the knowledge which before they had so pat. They remain year after year, objects of good-humoured scorn to younger men: some of them crawl through the examination of the Apothecaries' Hall; others become non-qualified assistants, a precarious position in which they are at the mercy of their employer; their lot is poverty, drunkenness, and Heaven only knows their end.

Of Human Bondage is a thick novel, but a thrilling one. Maugham is a storyteller, first and foremost. He introduces one of the great villains of literature in Mildred Rogers, an ice queen Philip becomes inexplicably enamored with in London and is nearly destroyed by in a manner I found too familar. Likewise the charismatic friends who come and go, the aunt who loves more than is loved, the dead end job, the family member on their death bed, I recognized from my own life.

Maugham takes the reader on a search for the meaning of life but does so without peddling hokey sermons. Instead, before there were even such a thing as documentaries, he structures the novel like one, focusing on a boy as he moves through childhood and into adulthood. There are many stops along the way and times I expected the novel to settle down, kick up its feet and explore one relationship, or one travelogue, all the way through. Instead, the story moves on, just like a life.
Profile Image for Adina.
797 reviews3,068 followers
Shelved as 'abandoned'
October 13, 2021
Speed Reading with a Book 2021 Kindle Edition or getting rid of books I bought a long time ago

It is not a bad book but I did not feel the pull as I did with The Painted Veil. I might have liked if I pushed through but I followed the rules of the game. If I am not feeling it after 10% or 20% it goes to the abandoned pile. Unfortunately I could not connect with the writing or the main character.
Profile Image for Henry Avila.
451 reviews3,229 followers
December 8, 2022
Acknowledged as W. (William) Somerset Maugham's masterpiece, the popular writer who the critics disparaged. His reputation may be low, still few authors reached the heights he climbed, for so long , always though entertaining never dull many with better skill couldn't ever be his equal in that department...The book has a myriad of elements which are quite autobiographical , making it believable.
The main intriguing character a rather shy medical doctor as was Mr.
Maugham and also an orphan raised by an aunt and uncle . But enough of the preamble , and lets get started. Poor boy Philip Carey loses both parents at a tender age, raised by a brother of his late father, William a cold uncle and Victorian Vicar of fictional Blackstable, a small village in England. By any sign shows him in every action being a blood relative is not enough sadly to love the nephew , however Aunt Louisa is kind and soon grows to love him . The boy born with a big problem a hideous club foot, is a fish out of water when playing with other kids, they are relentless in their bullying a nightmare situation for the child. Lonely the youth has no friends, his only escape from the pain of reality is like us, reading a ton, books are not enough. Nevertheless the grown man is a rolling stone never staying in one place, constantly changing his goals getting bored, when a student, painter, accountant and doctor. Moving from city to city London, Heidelberg where the famous university is located , then Paris , back to England alarming his staid uncle. Women are attractive to the unfortunate man, pity turns to genuine feelings. However a certain woman of dubious background Mildred, pretty to some yet lazy, with a sharp tongue the lovesick Philip can't see the obvious of what his passion will cost him , all he knows is his urgues must be obeyed. Yet hate prevails it's more apparent than affection, frequent arguments, breakups follow and no surprise back together again. The poverty stricken student struggles, still trying to learn medicine at a hospital in London and finally , to be able to call himself a doctor.Readers suffering along are anxious and never able to predict the outcome, this is the joy of the novel.
Profile Image for Jenn(ifer).
159 reviews934 followers
October 20, 2014

The following is American Idol judge Nicki Minaj's critique of Of Human Bondage


Hello darling. You know that I'm completely obsessed with you right now. I just want to say first of awll that your mustache is very becoming. And that ascot gets me really hot and bothered. It totally Does! I'll be honest with you sweetie, it makes me think very naughty thoughts.

Now listen darling, I have 4 words for you: This book is everything !

Seriously, sweetie, it's on another lev-el. It's completely beyond. Your writing is so rich, it's like a big heap of chocolate mousse cake. I want to drown it in fudge sauce and eat the whole thing UP! I didn't even mind the length because the story and the characters just drew me in. (don't listen to them sweetie, size does matter).

I can't wait to see what you give us next week, baby love. You just keep doin what you do.

Profile Image for Paul.
1,160 reviews1,921 followers
June 4, 2019
This book grew on me; it sort of seeps into you. Maugham is a good story teller and his characters are drawn well. It is a story of obsession, desire and yearning for something beyond the ordinary run of life. The hero, Philip Carey is not a conventional hero; he has a difficult childhood, a club foot which deeply affects him, he's awkward and often uncomfortable with people. We follow Philip from childhood, the death of his parents, living with his very religious aunt and uncle, boarding school, his attempts at jobs, Paris trying to be an artist, studying medicine, poverty and back to medicine. Interspersed are friendships, relationships with women and especially the intense and doomed relationship with Mildred which dominates the second half of the book. The 1934 film had Bette Davis as Mildred; wonderful piece of casting. There is a slightly awkward ending which I found satisfying and unsatisfying at the same time.
So why did the book strike a chord with me? Mainly because I identified so much with Philip Carey. I wasn't orphaned, but there was the intensely religious upbringing. Then, more importantly, there was Philip's club foot which blighted his school days; children are cruel; I have a disability which affects the way I walk (I stand out) and made school grim hell. Philip used reading to escape; as I did and many others do. Our career paths were different, apart from a period of unemployment; but there was a realisation that ultimately the negativity could either destroy one, or it could be turned to positivity and empathy for the pain and suffering of others. Philip survives and becomes stronger. Of course, Philip also falls in love with or becomes involved with totally inappropriate women; not, of course that I've ever done that (Ha!).
There is a redemptive theme running through, although Philip loses his religious beliefs. This is a powerful novel and is well worth the effort.
Profile Image for Luís.
1,826 reviews478 followers
February 9, 2023
This massive novel, published in 1915, is fascinating and terrible. It tells the story of the first 25 years of the life of Philip Carey, who will become a doctor, like his father, whom he did not know. It will undoubtedly experience marital happiness after suffering a string of sufferings.
After losing his mother at 8 (a point in familiar with Maugham), he had entrusted to his uncle, an Anglican pastor, a model of selfishness, self-importance, and avarice. In a small religious public school, he will experience the cruelty of his classmates, especially since he has a club foot. He is so despising he does not play sports in a school world entirely dedicated to him. He nevertheless shines in intellectual exercises.
But he brutally rejected the ecclesiastical and petty-bourgeois future that his teachers had drawn for him: he went to Heidelberg, then to Paris to develop, among the plunderers of Montparnasse, talent as a painter that was not very affirmed. He understands, however, that this life of a “rolling stone” leads nowhere; he began studying medicine, making do with living in slums in London, especially when poor financial speculation robbed him of his modest inheritance.
He is living a devastating love affair with Mildred, a girl who despises and hates him but without whom he cannot live. The love-hate relationship between Philip and Mildred is perhaps the “black diamond” of this novel. We will also appreciate the description of a department store in London, which owes a lot to the Zola of “Ladies’ Happiness.”
Profile Image for Samra Yusuf.
60 reviews398 followers
August 19, 2020
I think I was kind of melancholy as a kid. I spent a lot of time inside my own head. The child of my memory is a friendless brood of skinny demeanor. The ones you see in corners of a jam-packed school playground, reading wall quotes and wise sayings all to themselves, the ones who blush at slightest attention, asking what’s the time from fellow mates, offering water bottles without being asked, preserving seats for the late comer fellows, just being nice so they’d be talked to. The child in my memory grows a wild void of human bondage lacking; the void gashes and gashes to turn into an abyss of darkened needs, it becomes her defenseless forte to fall for affection, to be touched for real, to be called some one’s own, to belong.
Of Human Bondage wrenches out a story of deeply fractured emotions and inner conflicts experienced by an artist and an emotional man, which Maugham felt compelled to write about. He wanted to get it out of his system. He often said that he wrote because he couldn't help it. Which is what makes the novel one of the most intimate and searingly honest books ever written.
Club footed Philip Carey is believed to be the alter ego of stammering Maugham, both share a childhood of grim circumstances, having lost parents early and going to live to his childless uncle and aunt, this desolated stay confirms in him the obvious lacks he’s carrying. There's a heart-wrenching scene where Philip - with his absolute belief in God - fervently prays one night that he should be rid of his club foot and be made normal the next day. As it turns out nothing happens and therein are sowed the first seeds of Philip's disenchantment with religion..
Philip falls into many calls later in youth, only to be choosing medicine at last, it is while studying medicine that he comes across his utter damnation and infernal doom. Mildred, stupid, bare-chested, cold and vulgar Mildred explores in Philip his deep seated masochism and self tortuous inclinations. his masochistic relationship with Mildred many feel, alludes to a certain homosexual partner the author had. His relationship with Mildred underlines Philip's inner need to be humiliated and abused. His feeling of inadequacy - apart from his club foot - compounded by his non-success as a painter and general sense of despair - perhaps make him crave for a relationship where he can suffer. In fact, on various occasions, Philip brings this suffering upon himself.
"He did not care if she was heartless, vicious and vulgar, stupid and grasping, he loved her. He would rather have misery with one than happiness with the other."
Profile Image for Dolors.
524 reviews2,177 followers
November 12, 2018
This is a masterful novel, the kind of work that reaches philosophical dimension without being one bit pretentious neither in ambition nor in execution.
A story of personal growth, of the meandering paths a young man needs to take, getting astray, losing his way, only to find his own tracks again to walk towards a meaningful end. Because this is what this book is about: finding the meaning of life, the random patterns that compose the texture of happiness, of fulfillment.

Philip Carey could be the protagonist of a Charles Dickens’ tale; insecure, with a club foot and orphaned at an early age, he is left under the care of his stingy uncle and becomes a rather shy but highly sensitive boy. Defying his uncle and escaping from his aspirations to follow his steps and become a rural parson, Philip flees first to Germany and then to Paris pursuing a career as a painter. Art in multiple forms is ever present in the novel, offering a counterpoint to the more mundane occupations that provide a salary to Philip, and presenting the reader with the eternal dilemma of choosing between unprofitable vocation and colorless profession.
Nevertheless, the cornerstone of the novel revolves around the idea of desire and its dangerous tangent to obsession, presented almost in Proustian fashion. The irresistible and almost irrational bondage that Philip feels for an unremarkable waitress that brings him to total submission, close to self-destruction, serves to illustrate Maugham’s bigger picture; that of a human condition that makes little sense, of love that grows with suffering, of a life that allows degrading jobs, random sickness, cruel poverty, of women’s plights in a man’s world and the futility of aesthetics, of beauty, when hunger pierces body and soul.

Not only a coming of age story, “Of human bondage” combines the narrative clarity of a classic and the philosophical depth of a modern novel, shining with all the virtues of a rare work of art.
Beauty is to be found in ourselves, and Philip’s journey will finally reveal that happiness does not only exist in the abstract, it is within one’s reach, if only we are brave enough to grasp it, and hold it tight, no matter what. And I have to say that, after my own ramblings, Philip’s concept of happiness, and I wonder if also Maugham’s, is very close to my own.
August 18, 2022
'Forgive them, for they know not what they do'.

I love that quote. It is said nearing the end of this book, and it sums up how I should feel about a couple of characters in this book. I'm glad that Phillip was more forgiving.

I went into 'Of Human Bondage' completely blind, and the reason this book attracted me so much was the title. I thought I was going to be reading some sexy victorian novel, but I was definitely mistaken on that front. With my mind actively curious, I just dived straight in, and I'm happy to say, I have not been left disappointed.

This book is an autobiographical account of the authors life. Some parts have been altered, like for example, Philip having a clubfoot, but overall, it is mostly a true account. The story begins at Philips early days, where he is at school, and this part is probably the dullest part of the book. It is tiresome, and I was itching for him to leave school, so something would actually happen, in order to keep me invested in the plot.

Later, Philip meets and falls in love with a girl called Mildred. It is obvious to the reader that Mildred has no love for him, and she freely uses him, time and time again. I had pity for Phillip, but, I also felt an intense feeling of how pathetically ridiculous it all actually was. Doting on a being that obviously has no love for you is pretty low. He fell for her wicked traps way too often, and I really wanted to grab Phillip firmly by the shoulders, and shake him!

Yes, Mildred was a vile creature.

Misogyny was present here, which really was kind of laughable, as it took me completely by surprise. I understand that it was probably the attitudes towards women at the time, but it still doesn't stop me from saying how wrong it was, and still is, unfortunately.

There are many human lessons in this classic, and even though I struggled with it at the beginning, there are many masterful aspects in this book, and it has been a joy to find them all.
Profile Image for Carol.
1,370 reviews2,121 followers
January 16, 2016
What is the meaning of life? Well, the answer seems to be hidden in a scrap of Persian rug.

This is the story of an unforgettable fictional "character" named Philip Carey and his extremely tumultuous and tormented life from age 9 thru 30.

Poor Philip is only nine years of age when his beloved mother dies in childbirth and he is sent off to the vicarage to live with his strict, overbearing Uncle William and loving Aunt Louisa. Born with a club-foot and small for his age, Philip is shy and embarrassed by his deformity and is often lonely and pegged an outcast.

In his search for freedom and affection, OF HUMAN BONDAGE descriptively depicts Philip's various vocations, friendships, precarious love life and education.....as well as his love of books.

"Insensibly he formed the most delightful habit in the world, the habit of reading: he did not know that thus he was providing himself with a refuge from all the distress of life; he did not know either that he was creating for himself an unreal world which would make the real world of every day a source of bitter disappointment."

Throughout the reading of this complex semi-autobiographical novel, I often became so frustrated with Philip that I just wanted to shake his obsession with the vile, grungy waitress Mildred right out of him! OMGOSH.....he was so gullible and indecisive, it drove me crazy......BUT he was also a kind, likeable "character" generous to an indescribable fault, good-hearted and most of all......willing to forgive.

Originally published in 1915, this memorable classic is one hell of an "intimate tale of human relationships." What a story!

Profile Image for Jasmine.
103 reviews189 followers
August 27, 2016
I am sure you will agree with me that there are books one is better off reading when one is older and more experienced. On the other hand, there are also books one should have read 20 years earlier. For me personally, ‘Of Human Bondage’ belongs to the latter category. It had been gathering dust on my father’s bookshelf for years (in German translation) and I never thought about it. To tell you the truth, this book crossed my path again because of ‘The Goldfinch’, an impressive Pulitzer-winning Bildungsroman and one of my favorite books. I was looking for another Bildungsroman when I came across ‘Of Human Bondage’ again.

‘Of Human Bondage’ by Somerset W. Maugham is a classical Bildungsroman – a coming of age story, published almost 100 years ago. While reading it, I continually had to remind myself that the book is actually 100 years old. A lot of Philip’s thoughts seemed so very modern to me that I often forgot when Maugham actually wrote them. This is the story of Philip Carey, who loses his parents in early childhood. As a reader, we witness his life from early childhood until his thirties. Even though it is a third person omniscient narrative, the reader is very deeply involved in Philip’s thoughts. I read a large part of the book over the Easter holidays and was so deeply immersed in the story that Philip became almost real for me. This happens to me very rarely with a book. It is that childlike state when you forget everything around you and reality and fiction merge into one.

Of course, as in every good Bildungsroman Philip spends most of the book struggling with life’s challenges. More than once I wanted to take him under my motherly wing as he attempted to deal with religious beliefs, hindrances and, especially, relationships with women. Philip is an aesthete and a lover of literature. His love for books, literature and art comes across throughout the book and adds to the quality of storytelling:“And then beautiful things grow rich with the emotion that they have aroused in succeeding generations. That is why old things are more beautiful than modern. The “Ode on a Grecian Urn” is more lovely now than when it was written, because for a hundred years lovers have read it and the sick at heart take comfort in its lines.”(p.281)

Maugham’s rich descriptions of paintings and art in general are especially evident when his protagonist reflects on El Greco’s paintings. El Greco’s artwork used to make me feel rather uncomfortable and I was not a fan of his gloomy brushstrokes, but through Philip’s reflections Maugham opened my eyes.

“El Greco was the painter of the soul; and these gentlemen, wan and wasted, not by exhaustion but by restraint, with their tortured minds, seem to walk unaware of the beauty of the world; for their eyes look only in their hearts, and they are dazzled by the glory of the unseen. No painter has shown more pitilessly that the world is but a place of passage. The souls of the men he painted speak their strange longings through their eyes; their senses are miraculously acute, not for sounds and odours and colour, but for the very subtle sensations of the soul. The noble walks with the monkish heart within him, and his eyes see things which saints in their cells see too, and he is unastounded. His lips are not lips that smile.” (p.397)

El Greco,1595: Study of a Man

The reader accompanies Philip on his stays in Heidelberg, London and especially Paris where he enrolls in art school, convinced of his abilities as a painter. I particularly enjoyed this part of the book, when Maugham gives the reader a fascinating insight into the bohemian lifestyle of the Belle Époque. Paris and its smell, colors, people and lifestyles come alive before the reader’s eyes.

‘Of Human Bondage’ is said to be Maugham’s semi-biographical novel and I would recommend every reader to look up the writer’s life before or while reading the book. With this in mind, I was especially astonished by Philip’s relationships with women. Philip is in pursuit of beauty, but not when it comes to women. Women are either anemic, have narrow pale lips, greenish skin (!) and are flat-chested like a boy, or they are large and unsophisticated. Not very attractive, I would say. By comparison, Griffith, one of Philip’s fellow students, is described as a “tall fellow, with a quantity of curly red hair and blue eyes, a white skin, and a very red mouth”and Maugham writes that "There was a peculiar charm in his manner, a mingling of gravity and kindliness which was infinitely attractive”. Maybe I am biased, knowing that Maugham’s sexual preference was for men rather than women, but I wonder if the reader of 90 years ago picked up these hints.

That said, Philip’s relationship with Mildred (best known for its film adaption with Bette Davies in 1934), a vulgar, unworldly teashop girl he encounters during his medicine studies in London, tops everything. It is almost unbearable to read how he submits to her, how he let himself be humiliated by her. "He did not care if she was heartless, vicious and vulgar, stupid and grasping, he loved her. He would rather have misery with one than happiness with the other.”(p.308). Every time Mildred appeared in the story, my stomach literally twisted in knots. I must admit that even though these scenes are an important part of the plot and constitute the main storyline in the aforementioned film adaptation, I found it very hard to endure them. However, they are an essential part of Philip’s personal development.

Philip is a complex character. Born with a clubfoot, he always felt self-conscious. He is shy and overly sensitive. He blushes a lot (I counted 30 times). Nevertheless, he endures humiliation with a stoic steadiness. In the meantime he is often condescending. He is aware of his intellectual superiority to Mildred. As a connoisseur of literature and art, he even feels superior to his peers at Medical School.

Notwithstanding his flaws, I like Philip very much. In real life as well as in literature I have a soft spot for people who are in pursuit of beautiful things, who love literature and art. Philip is a keen observer of human behavior, both that of his entourage and his own. His train of thought, his self-exploration and subsequent conclusions on religion, philosophy and the meaning of life come easily and straightforwardly to the reader. In my opinion this is Maugham’s forte: the examination of ideas in moral terms and his portrayal of the meaning of life and religion through Philip’s eyes. The writing style is rather simple; nothing remains of the flowery or verbose prose of the Victorians (which I love by the way!). Nonetheless, the writing is powerful; it has stayed with me long after I have finished the book.

As I have already said, I wish I had read ‘Of Human Bondage’ 20 years earlier. It is certainly a book to encourage younger people to find their place in life. But even 20 years ‘too late’, the book has the power to evoke a variety of strong emotions. Why is this? Maugham provides an answer through Philip: "When I read a book I seem to read it with my eyes only, but now and then I come across a passage, perhaps only a phrase, which has a meaning for me, and it becomes part of me...” (p.292)

‘Of Human Bondage’ did this to me.
Profile Image for Murray.
Author 146 books460 followers
February 5, 2023
**This novel suffocated me.

*Because the male protagonist, Philip, debased and suffocated himself for a woman, Mildred, who used and abused him over and over again. I cried out to him to break off the relationship, that she didn’t care for him and that, as more and more time passed, it was obvious she never would. But he kept on letting her dominate and destroy him.

*I suffered with Philip, agonizing over his obsession, his angst, arguing how pathetic it was, that she had no heart for him except the pleasure of crushing his to get what she needed.

*The novel is romantic claustrophobia. I was exhausted by the book. Somerset admitted the story had autobiographical elements, but that it wasn’t all autobiographical. Poor man if some of it was his heart death.

*Powerfully written, his masterpiece.

*I never felt so free and oxygenated than when I’d finally turned the last page.
Profile Image for Cosmin Leucuța.
Author 12 books401 followers
January 28, 2023
Am cumpărat cartea asta în primăvara lui 2015, de la un anticariat, cu doar 10 lei. Era nouă, în țiplă, am adus-o acasă și am pus-o pe raft, și am evitat-o aproape un deceniu. De ce? Pentru că are aproape 900 de pagini, și pentru că e scrisă de Maugham. Mai citisem de la el Luna și doi bani jumate, și Catalina, două cărți subțirele, ușoare, banale. Nu știam nimic despre „Robie”, dar cumva mă temeam de ea, pentru că mă gândeam că va fi sau o banalitate ca și celelalte, sau un monstru care o să mă răpună (în ultima vreme nu prea mai sunt fanul cărților de 1000 de pagini).

Înainte să mă apuc de ea, nu m-am documentat, nu am citit nimic, nici măcar review-urile de pe GR. Am luat-o pur și simplu de pe raft pentru că mi-am propus ca anul 2023 va fi anul în care voi acorda atenție tuturor cărților pe care le am de ani de zile pe lista de lecturi, dar pe care le-am tot amânat din motive incerte.

Robie e povestea lui Philip Carey, un băiețel care are un picior strâmb și care devine orfan pe la vârsta de 5 ani. E trimis să locuiască cu unchiul și mătușa din partea tatălui, și viața lui ia o mulțime de întorsături până la vârsta de 30 de ani, când se oprește povestea.

Lipsit de o adevărată îndrumare părintească, Philip e lăsat să își decidă direcția vieții, și, cum e și de așteptat, are parte de nenumărate eșecuri înainte să își găsească calea. De-a lungul călătoriei cunoaște o mulțime de personaje, și cu unele dintre ele formează legături de-a dreptul bolnăvicioase - în special vorbesc aici de Mildred, o fată pe care am urât-o cu toată ființa mea pentru felul în care s-a purtat cu Philip de-a lungul cărții, și l-am urât și pe el pentru că i-a permis să se poarte așa, și deși toată legătura lor se bazează pe un fel de robie aberantă a spiritului, am puternicul sentiment că și în ziua de astăzi există destui oameni care sunt prinși în relații similare, din care ar putea ieși fără prea mare efort și repercusiuni, dacă doar și-ar dori chestia asta. Iar felul în care Maugham construiește relațiile dintre aceste personaje e adevărata lovitură de maestru, adevăratul spirit nemuritor al acestei cărți, pe care, în ciuda masivității, am dat-o gata în mai puțin de o săptămână, fără prea mare efort. Sigur, ajută și faptul că Maugham are un stil simplu, direct și foarte eficient, și, deși n-am fost impresionat de chestia asta în romanele lui anterioare, în „Robie” funcționează perfect, și omul reușește să echilibreze perfect dialogurile, narațiunea și descrierile, evitând să alunece în obsesiile altor contemporani pentru monologuri de 20 de pagini sau narațiuni aride și plictisitoare.

Recomand cu mare căldură.
Profile Image for Jr Bacdayan.
211 reviews1,657 followers
June 6, 2020
What is the meaning of life? This is the great riddle that Philip Carey tries to understand and throughout this book's pages reside the experiences that slowly shape his answer, each episode like a brush stroke on a canvas until slowly comes to life a picturesque painting or perhaps a horrifying image.

Carey was born with a clubfoot, became an orphan early, and was adopted by his uncle, a vicar, and his subservient aunt. He was raised a devout Christian, and was enrolled in education that prepared him, like his uncle, to be a man of the cloth. His first instincts were trained to associate the purpose of his life in the service of God. However his faith proved fragile when during his first independent foray into the world, an intellectual awakening rendered it impossible for him to keep the faith. Thus marked the end of his formal education.

Rife with life's possiblities, young Carey envisioned himself a gentleman but did not know which path to take. There were several occupations he endeavoured to make his trade. His first shot an ill-advised attempt at becoming a chartered accountant. But his mind was too imaginative for the repetitive toil of organising numericals. Then was the well-intentioned impulse at trying his hand at becoming a painter in Paris. But skilled as he was with making drawings, he did not have the talent which was imperative for an artist's success. He was momentarily carried away by the beauty of the world and tried to find the root of his existence in the feeling of awe when he viewed an artistic masterwork, but it failed to arouse a lasting impression, producing nothing but a fleeting sensation.

Finally he settled himself at Medicine, his deceased Father's trade, and found that he had the temperament for it. After his parents died and their estate was settled he was left altogether with approximately 2,000 pounds. With the cost of his early education being taken from it by his miserly uncle, he had about 1,600 to live on for a few years till he established a trade to give him a dependable source of income. But as young men are prone to passion, Carey fell deeply in love for a wretched woman that not only depleted his resources substantially but also cost him no end of grief. Sick as he was with infatuation, it slowly dawned on him that the pangs of loving desire he felt, though overpowering, should contribute nothing but a small part to his existence and not become the whole point. And as passion is unsustainable, more so one unrequited, it petered out till nothing was left but self castigation.

Because of his overzealous spending brought about by eager passion, his plans would get side tracked by abject poverty and he would spend two years as a shop worker enduring many hardships both economically and psychologically before he could earn his degree. In this he learned the value of humility. He learned to shed his selfish coat, often worn by gentlemen, and became sensitive to the plight of his fellow humans especially those struggling as he did at that time. This would become a valuable asset as a practicing doctor, when he could show no disgust at the poverty of his patients helping them feel at ease as he tried to alleviate their suffering.

Of Human Bondage is the tale of man's life filled to the brim with failure and mistakes. It depicts how much pain and agony life gives us. But cleverly woven between sadness, failure, and pain, are moments full of joy, of friendship, and of love.

"His life seemed horrible when it was measured by happiness, but now he seemed to gather strength as he realised that it might be measured by something else. Happiness mattered as little as pain. They came in, both of them, as all other details of his life came in, to the elaboration of the design. He seemed for an instant to stand above the accidents of his existence, and he felt that they could not affect him again as they had done before. Whatever happened to him now would be one more motive to add to the complexity of the pattern, and when the end approached he would rejoice in its completion. It would be a work of art, and it would be none the less beautiful because he alone knew of its existence, and with his death it would at once cease to be. Philip was happy."

Life is not a grand painting filled with beauty, it is but a simple rug - woven with the different threads of our choices and experiences. It might seem inconsequential and even shabby to those who see it, but for those who are lucky enough to feel its personal touch - if offers a loving warmth and friendly comfort.

May your life be full in experiences, and rich in friendship and love.
Profile Image for Perry.
631 reviews503 followers
August 22, 2020
First from Maugham's Self-Loathing, Chauvinistic Closet

Before discussing the title, my thoughts on this superb 1915 novel:

Reading it was a strain, slow-moving until the protagonist Philip Carey went to Paris to study art, after which I found it fascinating, then infuriating and ultimately affirming. That is to say, I loved the parts about art and Paris and his relationship with Fanny Price, the poor and talentless soul who committed suicide; I detested his main love interest (a unilateral infatuation of the first degree) in Mildred Rogers, the Cockney waitress who used and abused him without pity, and his pathetic lapses into co-dependency on her. Thus, I was heartened by Philip's ability to finally escape the chains of fear and self-hatred caused by losing his parents young, having a clubfoot and being attached by "love" to an awful leach.

Now, to misogyne bondage:

The enterprise of comparing this novel with his other three major novels, The Painted Veil, The Moon and Sixpence and The Razor's Edge, as well as his most acclaimed short story, "Rain," has been terribly illuminating. As I contemplated, I saw a peculiar pattern in Maugham's female leads (in these works, at least) and was reminded of an essay by Christopher Hitchens that I read in his brilliant collection Arguably: Selected Essays, in which Hitchens reviewed the Maugham biography Somerset Maugham: A Life, by Jeffrey Meyers. See C. Hitchens, "W. Somerset Maugham: Poor Old Willie," The Atlantic, May 2004. After re-reading this essay and traveling back through my memory of the four novels and short story, I am convinced that Maugham was a misogynist sparked by his self-loathing as a closeted homosexual.

Consider first,
Maugham worked assiduously to create a persona for himself in life. And the life was, according to this admirable biography, a good deal more exquisite, dramatic, torrid, and tragic than any of the works. Born and brought up in France, Maugham lost his parents when quite young and from then on was farmed out to mean relatives and cruel, monastic boarding schools. The traditional ration of bullying, beating, and buggery seems to have been unusually effective in his case, leaving him with a frightful lifelong speech impediment and a staunch commitment to homosexuality.”

“An ideal way to “lock in” homosexual disposition is probably to spend time as a gynecologist in a slum district of London—which, astonishingly enough, is what the fastidious young man did. Though he would ultimately abandon medicine, he passed considerable time delivering babies in the abysmal squalor of Lambeth, on the south bank of the River Thames. As part of his training he witnessed cesarean births in the hospital, where death was not uncommon
C. Hitchens, "Poor Old Willie," supra.

Reviewing each of his four major novels and his most renowned short story, one is struck by the common thread: the females are all weak, wanton and/or wicked. These women are the type of which George Bernard Shaw so mordantly quipped in his play, "Mrs. Warren's Profession": "She may be a good sort but she is a bad lot."

Mildred Rogers and Fanny Price (who only appeared briefly) from the instant novel are discussed above. In the short story, "Rain" (1921), the prostitute Sadie Thompson is violated by a missionary intent upon saving her soul and after finding the missionary dead from suicide, the narrator observes that Sadie has returned to "the flaunting quean" they had first known when coming to American Samoa. "Quean" means "a low woman; a wench; a slut."

In The Razor's Edge (1944), Sophie Macdonald, a childhood friend of the protagonist Larry Darrell, becomes an alcoholic, opium addicted "slut" after losing her husband and child to a tragic car accident. On the eve of the wedding of Larry and Sophie (whom he's trying to save from a life of debauchery), Larry's pre-war girlfriend, the wealthy, wicked Isabel (who wants Larry for herself), leads a sober, fragile Sophie back to the path of destruction by effectively handing her a bottle of expensive vodka.

In The Moon and Sixpence (1919), Blanche Stroeve, wife of a Dutch painter who is a friendly comrade of the Gaugin-based antihero, abandons her husband for "Gaugin," who quickly casts her aside once she's served her purpose as a model and short-term concubine, after which she kills herself.

Finally, in The Painted Veil (1925), Kitty Garstin Fane, the heroine, is a flighty and self-centered "low woman" who, shortly after marrying Dr. Fane, embarks upon a lurid, torrid affair lasting two years and only laughs when initially faced with Dr. Fane finding out. Notably, this is my favorite Maugham novel, probably because he gives Kitty redemption. While this may seem the exception to my thesis, I'd point out that Kitty is like the others in her sexual promiscuity, a trait that seems particularly deplorable to misogynists.

Does this take away from the brilliance of Maugham's works or mean that he doesn't remain on my list of favorite authors? No. But, I do believe that being forced by then-existing societal norms to hide his homosexuality significantly contributed to his self-loathing, in turn leading to his negative outlook toward women. Were our culture more advanced, as it is now progressing, maybe Maugham would not have felt compelled to conceal his sexual preference and would not have been so fundamentally adverse to females and, as a consequence, might have been more kind to the superior sex (IMHO) and penned novels with more positive female characters or at least given his seriously damaged female characters more redeeming arcs, such as he did in The Painted Veil.

I don't do this for a living so I cannot afford to spend any more time revising or cleaning up this review, so please forgive any errors or if I have offended anyone.
Profile Image for Cheryl.
464 reviews583 followers
November 14, 2016
When I read a book I seem to read it with my eyes only, but now and then I come across a passage, perhaps only a phrase, which has a meaning for me, and it becomes a part of me.

Sometimes you're needlepoint-focused, and at other times, everything is a blur. Sometimes everything around you seems tainted and ugly, and yet you see the beauty in something as simple as wet leaves falling from a tree and attaching themselves in colorful lines to each board of your backyard deck. And you wonder at the truthfulness of the idea that life is
neither beautiful nor ugly, but just to be accepted in the same spirit as one accepts the changes of the seasons.
Sometimes you don't know what changes life will bring, but you do know that those pivotal moments depend upon your reaction to these changes. So when the moment occurs, do you rest assured that happiness matters as little as pain and do you "stand above the accidents of your existence?" Do you, like Philip, continue to grow, continue to avoid the shackles that hinder, as you start to believe that the rain falls alike upon "the just and upon the unjust, and for nothing is there a why and a wherefore"?

When I think of this book, I equate it to the multifaceted The Brothers Karamozov, since it is also a book that explores the complications of life and thought, traverses the intricacies of morality, stimulates intellectual curiosity, and asks questions of love and choice, all through one nuanced protagonist. This book now sits on my classics pedestal, next to the books that have helped me grow spiritually and intellectually by illuminating the meaning of life, like The Count of Monte Cristo; it attaches itself to my personal experiences, gifting me with highlighted passages that are snippets of my meandering thoughts as I try to discover the meaning of life like Philip does, and in so doing, it also reminds me of the search for lost time in Proust's Swann's Way.

From the moment the child Philip lay in his dying mother's arms while she hugged him and caressed his club foot, I knew I'd be enamored by him. Following the immediacy of this chronicle of his growth from adolescence to adult, it was impossible to dislike him, for he is that character who is his own worst critic. Phillip knows when he is wrong, childish, too sensitive, arrogant, lazy, restless, or depressed. Through his journey from artist to accountant and then medicine, he tackles the inextricable confusion of career and realizes when his life's trajectory will depend upon his choices to focus and proceed, even despite the limitations placed upon him by his disability. His commute through conscience and belief is intriguing as it parallels the difficult decisions he makes at various stages of his life. Although I was disappointed to follow his disastrous relationship with Mildred and watch while he scorned the love of Norah, I was also relieved by his final epiphany on love and life.
He saw what looked like the truth as by flashes of lightning on a dark, stormy night you might see a mountain range. He seemed to see that a man need not leave his life to chance, but that his will was powerful; he seemed to see that self-control might be as passionate and as active as the surrender to passion; he seemed to see that the inward life might be as manifold, as varied, as rich with experience, as the life of one who conquered realms and explored unknown lands.

Sometimes when those moments of uncertainty cloud judgment, a moment to consider the meaninglessness of life, just as we consider its meaningfulness, could be all that matters. Maybe we equate happiness to pain and consider how the continual search for one without the other could prove fruitless. And just as we pause to consider the desolation of life and we sometimes fall into the pit of its gloom, perhaps simultaneously, we also consider its exquisite capacity for beauty and we savor its complexities.

Profile Image for Ulysse.
271 reviews101 followers
November 3, 2022
What can I say about this extraordinary book? Not since Crime and Punishment have I read a novel this intense. It captivated me from start to finish. Nothing has mattered more to me in the past three weeks than the trials and tribulations of Philip Carey. I was literally on the edge of my seat the whole time I was reading this.
Philip's early life is depicted in the grand tradition of the picaresque novel: orphaned at a young age, club-footed, adopted by an aging vicar and his wife, unhappy dreamer, reserved, introspective, bullied at school, unable to settle on a choice of a career, moving from place to place, living the life of an art student in Paris, of a med student in London, unhappy in love, foolishly generous, driven to poverty, failing time after time, a complete loser. Will he get up after his umpteenth fall or will life finally crush the living breath out of him and leave his carcass on the side of the road, carrion for the crows? This is the burning question that keeps the pages turning.
Philip Carey is one of those characters you can't help but root for. He is so fully realized and many-faceted he almost feels like a close friend. He is more than a friend in fact, he is the body and mind you inhabit as you read on with bated breath. When he limps along the streets of London and Paris you limp along with him; when he despairs at the indifference of his lover you feel despair in your own heart; when he triumphs you take a flying leap in the air and shout hurrah (and people cast a sidelong glance at you. Let them).
Philip is on a constant search for the meaning of life. Is it really worth living, this life of pain and disappointment, or is it all meaningless? The poet Cronshaw, a deadbeat English expatriate who drowns his days and nights in absinthe at the Closerie des Lilas, reveals a secret that will only make sense to our hero many years later. Life, no matter how dull, happy or abject it may be, draws a pattern which resembles the motif commonly seen at the centre of a Persian rug. Therein lies all meaning. It is up to you to find the right thread and trace your own conclusions. Only through experience and with a great deal of patience will the pattern emerge, blinding you with the light of its truth. Philip's epiphany near the end of the book is both startling and beautiful. Maugham must have had it too, it feels so real.
After reading Of Human Bondage, I really feel like I have lived another life. And when I think of all the books I've read up until now and all the books I have not read, I feel lucky to have lived so many lives and to have so many lives left to live. There must be a pattern in this, surely. Perhaps in time will this pattern reveal itself to me.
Profile Image for Mariel.
667 reviews1,047 followers
March 31, 2011
Of Human Bondage used to be under my (re)tired "waiting-until-I'm-not-too-depressed" shelf on goodreads (it had no company. What's the time before birth? I'm gonna say purgatory anyway). Yeah, right. Jump, Mariel, jump! I'm glad it is out of the way. It's the uncomfortable conversations like religious people might feel if they are unstable in faith. The glimpses when someone points out to you a fact (weeeelll) about yourself that pulls off every straggled hair as it is yanked off. I started reading Of Human Bondage after getting dumped by my friend of many years (I'm "too dark"). All things considering, a stupid book choice on my part, if I didn't want to be reminded of these exact type of conversations. Of Human Bondage is a before the dust settles life part story of Phillip. I'd say it is not much a life story as a whole lot of those conversations that look big and mean a lot of things, and at the same time sound big to beat you down. Like when Phillip wonders if thinking ever helped anyone out when they needed it? Backstory! Subtext! Okay, here's some text: My friend told me I waste my life reading books. Fiction is pointless. Those conversations might have SOME point. They aren't the whole point. That gets in the way of living, when those ideas beat down. I don't want to be beaten down. God, I really don't. What was it that M. Ward said about if life is short then why are the nights so long?

Paragraph break. My eyes would glaze over that much of me babbling. Phillip comes to the realization that life has no meaning. Everyone dies. If you can't be great, why bother? Okay, so stories are not real. But what the hell is? Is love real? Imagined, built up, analyzed interactions. Memories don't match. Life then gets rewritten in that hindsight. I comfort myself that nothing I do matters. It's how I can bully myself to carry on despite my intense stupidity. I don't understand much and sometimes this is really painful. (I say this a lot because it is my recurring nightmare.) So what? That's not gonna change. Stories are where it's surprise and multi sided relationships all in one's own brain. The best part? A surprising brain of your own. Of Human Bondage makes me feel my "But that's all wrong!" and crying out in frustration and misunderstanding when confronted with those beat down conversations. That it isn't forever is how I can carry on. What it means to me, and it doesn't matter if I can give back anything worth as much... Yeah, stories.

To be honest? I was a little lost when the ideals were really entitlement. Wrong foot...

I hated Phillip sometimes. I related to Phillip too much sometimes too. He's a quitter like me. His life's work was all along his introspection. His pitying and self satisfied (mostly in pity) inner life. How could he have missed that he only wanted Mildred because she had rejected him? C'mon, Phillip, even I would have seen that. The side of Phillip that thinks more about how good he could look making love instead of just making love... Frustrating, indeed.

Mildred is too pathetic for me to hate. She's just drifting between thoughtless passions. I'd hate her if I had it in me to hate people who picked on me in junior high. I'm needing more than that these days... Mildred is the void that is no stories. Yet she remembers everything about her dreams... Pretty much the only interesting thing about her. It isn't like he didn't KNOW that. She's not even an adult. How could one ever have a relationship with her? Or expect to?

Phillip's ideal was someone beautiful. (Sorry to anyone who hasn't read Lanark! [If you haven't, it's really good.] This relationship made me feel exactly like that. So what? It is your own damned fault.) I'm not inclined to feel that bad for a guy who doesn't try to take a bit more than that looks thing. (Sally reminded me of Mildred with the "If you like" and passiveness, anyway. If she despised Phillip she'd be better off with him. That creeps me out.) Take more! If you can't know how anyone else feels anyway, if you're going to be trapped in your own head... Make that space richer?

Miss Price killed me. Starvation suicide... Phillip's disgust towards her, his impatience with her affection... I mean, he's the same to these other women like Miss Price and Norah that Mildred was to him. Why his Mildred is a bitch talk and poor me didn't get what I deserved? What the hell is deserved?

Sometimes I worry that I'm like a sociopath who cannot fake human emotions when it comes to romance and religion. I just couldn't feel sorry for Phillip when it came to his "ideals" (coughs entitlement coughs) of perfect beauty. (By that token, he didn't "deserve" love because of his club foot.) It isn't about who deserves what. You take what the hell you can get if you can, I say. I don't know what it is like to lose that because I never had it. Entitlement. I don't want to stop caring.

Sad sigh. I felt a lot of things from this book... I just wish they were the sustaining kind that I'd drink from in my camel's hunch back huddled up for sanctuary. I said this already... It's that "But you're wrong! You HAVE to be wrong!" conversation interlude outside of life that almost sounds like it is getting somewhere and probably really isn't. I know what I can't live without...

I marked off so many passages for future reference. I will probably look them over in the future when I miss having someone to piss me off with being wrong that my life in my head from books is meaningless. Life outside too. There were many jumping off points for inspiration. I'm going to have frames of reference. I guess that's what Phillip had from his own life of introspection. He's too much like me and I don't like me.

My favorite part of Of Human Bondage is when young Phillip gets into the picture books. He stares and imagines and goes to places. I can get that retreat. It was the sensitive like feeling attuned instead of his quick to offense that I relate to entirely too much (on my worst days). Phillip's sweet moments when he feels sensitive. Maybe he likes himself for being sensitive. I don't care about that. I like looking beyond that shitty layers and can feel embarrassed, pained... He's at best when no one wants anything from him. Knowing what to do is really hard. Phillip would be a really good friend to have if he were in a book... And not the parts that were me.

P.s. Damn. Why'd I have to write a review of this before bed time? I'm upset.
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,854 reviews16.4k followers
October 15, 2020
W. Somerset Maugham’s 1915 publication has as it’s title a line borrowed from Baruch Spinoza, from his Ethics series, "Of Human Bondage, or the Strength of the Emotions", where he discusses people's inability to control their emotions which, thus, constitute bondage.

This is something of a bildungsroman, in that we follow our protagonist, Philip Carey, from childhood until he is about thirty. As the story begins, Carey’s mother has just died, leaving him orphaned, and he goes to live with his aunt and uncle, an older couple who never had children. The uncle is a country vicar who is domineering and unempathetic. Philip was born with a clubfoot and this disability will haunt him severely in his childhood and will continue to be a difficulty for him, not as a physical deterrent, so much as an emotional one.

Carey embarks on a series of travels, first to Germany, then to Paris to learn to paint, and then to London for studies to become a doctor. Throughout this time, we see patterns of interconnectedness between him and the people who come into his life. I thought of Donne’s line about “no man is an island” but also Sartre’s No Exit, wherein human interactions can be seen as hell. Philip, who is self-conscious about his foot, has a difficult time with socialization, but not an impossible time. Though he gets some unwanted attention, his greatest struggle is with his own acceptance.

The most compelling element of the book is Philip’s relationship with Mildred, a woman he meets in a restaurant, and for whom he falls maddingly, irrationally in love. His pathetic, and unrequited pursuit of her, off and on throughout most of the second half of the story, is at times heartbreaking and bewildering. Maugham’s description of her reminded me of Hemingway’s Lady Brett, from The Sun Also Rises, though whereas Brett was a rich socialite, Mildred, is a conniving working-class schemer. Both women are thoughtlessly oblivious to the harm they cause to men.

Maugham, the author of The Painted Veil and Razor’s Edge, is a master of characterization and dialogue. His ability to convey a social dynamic is unparalleled and that talent is demonstrated in virtuosity in this novel, considered by many to be his masterpiece.

September 24, 2020
Love how Wharton explained democracy:
You know, there are two good things in life, freedom of thought and freedom of action. In France you get freedom of action: you can do what you like and nobody bothers, but you must think like everybody else. In Germany you must do what everybody else does, but you may think as you choose. They’re both very good things. I personally prefer freedom of thought. But in England you get neither: you’re ground down by convention. You can’t think as you like and you can’t act as you like. That’s because it’s a democratic nation. I expect America’s worse. (c)

A sweeping coming-of-age narrative to admire and enjoy vicariously.

I hated how Philip treated Mrs Carey. She seems like such a poor soul: treated by the Vicar like, well, like a woman was likely to be treated in that epoch. And little Philip joined the row but on the account of his personal hang ups.

This is a true bildungsroman covering lots of ground: childhood, schooling, travels, growing up (but not 100%!), more wanderlust, even more, and when the reader would've thought there's no such thing as maturity for this particular MC, we've got an unexpected development…

A great book. Even though it's not going to join the favourites shelf.

The way of life described in there is largely endearing:
...she had set off with an album of water colours to show how accomplished she was and a bundle of letters to prove how deeply the young man had compromised himself (c)

Now, how about the Renaissance?
They could not think a man profound whose interests were so diverse. (c)

He was taught Latin and mathematics by his uncle who knew neither, and French and the piano by his aunt. Of French she was ignorant, but she knew the piano well enough to accompany the old-fashioned songs she had sung for thirty years. (c)

Mr.Ducroz and his views on revolution: just imagine how one gets into a twist like that:
He was taciturn, and what Philip learnt about him he learnt from others: it appeared that he had fought with Garibaldi against the Pope, but had left Italy in disgust when it was clear that all his efforts for freedom, by which he meant the establishment of a republic, tended to no more than an exchange of yokes; he had been expelled from Geneva for it was not known what political offences. (c)
… he found himself in that little neat town under the heel of a personal tyranny greater than any in Europe. Perhaps his taciturnity hid a contempt for the human race which had abandoned the great dreams of his youth and now wallowed in sluggish ease; or perhaps these thirty years of revolution had taught him that men are unfit for liberty, and he thought that he had spent his life in the pursuit of that which was not worth the finding. (c)

Unexpected empathy lessons:
‘If it hadn’t been for the money you gave me I should have starved. It was all I had to live on.’ He made his solemn, obsequious bow, and went out. Philip felt a little lump in his throat. He seemed to realise in a fashion the hopeless bitterness of the old man’s struggle, and how hard life was for him when to himself it was so pleasant. (c)

How's this about legal studies:
It was notorious that any fool could pass the examinations of the Bar Council, and he pursued his studies in a dilatory fashion. When he was ploughed for his final he looked upon it as a personal affront. (c)

Yes, these are thoughts one does have to share (NOT!) with a kid who has lost his parents:
He heard that his father’s extravagance was really criminal, and it was a mercy that Providence had seen fit to take his dear mother to itself: she had no more idea of money than a child. (c)
He had seen grapes in the dining-room that must have cost at least eight shillings a pound; and at luncheon he had been given asparagus two months before it was ready in the vicarage garden. Now all he had anticipated was come to pass: the Vicar felt the satisfaction of the prophet who saw fire and brimstone consume the city which would not mend its way to his warning. (c)

On women:
On each side of the fireplace were chairs covered in stamped leather, each with an antimacassar; one had arms and was called the husband, and the other had none and was called the wife. (c)

Bibliophilia, my love:
Insensibly he formed the most delightful habit in the world, the habit of reading: he did not know that thus he was providing himself with a refuge from all the distress of life; he did not know either that he was creating for himself an unreal world which would make the real world of every day a source of bitter disappointment. (c)
Hayward had one gift which was very precious. He had a real feeling for literature, and he could impart his own passion with an admirable fluency. He could throw himself into sympathy with a writer and see all that was best in him, and then he could talk about him with understanding. (c)

Accounting/Office woes:
‘I’m afraid it sounds very rude, but I hope from the bottom of my heart that I shall never set eyes on any of you again.’ (c)
‘I may be no good, but at least let me have a try. I can’t be a worse failure than I was in that beastly office.(c)

And, finally, getting to maturity. Ultimately. Getting over the fruitless fantasies almost overnight:
They would have a little house within sight of the sea, and he would watch the mighty ships passing to the lands he would never know. Perhaps that was the wisest thing. Cronshaw had told him that the facts of life mattered nothing to him who by the power of fancy held in fee the twin realms of space and time. It was true. Forever wilt thou love and she be fair!
His wedding present to his wife would be all his high hopes. Self-sacrifice! (c)
What did he care for Spain and its cities, Cordova, Toledo, Leon; what to him were the pagodas of Burmah and the lagoons of South Sea Islands? America was here and now. 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 all that aside now with a gesture of impatience. He had lived always in the future, and the present always, always had slipped through his fingers. His ideals? He thought of his desire to make a design, intricate and beautiful, out of the myriad, meaningless facts of life: had he not seen also that the simplest pattern, that in which a man was born, worked, married, had children, and died, was likewise the most perfect? It might be that to surrender to happiness was to accept defeat, but it was a defeat better than many victories. (c)

Other nice tidbits:
Mr. Carey walked to church in the evening, and Philip limped along by his side. The walk through the darkness along the country road strangely impressed him, and the church with all its lights in the distance, coming gradually nearer, seemed very friendly. (c)
The feeling of apartness from others comes to most with puberty, but it is not always developed to such a degree as to make the difference between the individual and his fellows noticeable to the individual. It is such as he, as little conscious of himself as the bee in a hive, who are the lucky in life, for they have the best chance of happiness: their activities are shared by all, and their pleasures are only pleasures because they are enjoyed in common; you will see them on Whit-Monday dancing on Hampstead Heath, shouting at a football match, or from club windows in Pall Mall cheering a royal procession. It is because of them that man has been called a social animal. (c)
He wondered whether he had done right. He was dissatisfied with himself and with all his circumstances. He asked himself dully whether whenever you got your way you wished afterwards that you hadn’t. (c)
Now and then he dreamed that he was there still, and it gave him an extraordinary satisfaction, on awaking, to realise that he was in his little room in the turret. From his bed he could see the great cumulus clouds that hung in the blue sky. He revelled in his freedom. He could go to bed when he chose and get up when the fancy took him. There was no one to order him about. It struck him that he need not tell any more lies. (c)
Benevolence is often very peremptory. (c)
But Philip could not live long in the rarefied air of the hilltops. (c)
He lied and never knew that he lied, and when it was pointed out to him said that lies were beautiful. He was an idealist. (c)
he felt a queer little pang of bitterness because reality seemed so different from the ideal. (c)
He had a great idea that one should stick to whatever one had begun. Like all weak men he laid an exaggerated stress on not changing one’s mind. (c)
Profile Image for Nataliya Yaneva.
165 reviews322 followers
January 4, 2021
За пръв път чух за Съмърсет Моъм, когато бях на 19 и, разбира се, тогава всички неща в света носеха послания специално за мен. Свързвах „Души в окови“, по-конкретно оригиналното заглавие на романа, с една изтерзана любовна история, която все пак намери своята щастлива развръзка. Преоткрих Моъм наскоро с „Цветният воал“ и се оказа, че съм забравила личната си горчилка, свързана с него. И се влюбих. Прехвалена е любовта от пръв поглед. Трябват ти понякога години, за да се влюбиш истински. Тогава обаче остава за цял живот.

Моъм е… Но не, нека спра дотук. Моъм Е. Душата на неговия Филип Кери носи оковите на всички човешки слабости. Той е наивен, самомнителен, раним. Когато бях малка и аз като него се молех горещо (не на някакъв бог обаче) да ми се случат разни неща и вярвах истински, че ще станат. Е, моите не бяха така смислени като да се отърва от някакъв недъг, но също бяха продиктувани от смътната представа, че трябва някак да се слееш със социума, за да оцелееш. После обаче пораснах и, както често се случва, осъзнах, че дълбоко съм грешала. Същото сполетява и Филип. Младостта му е изтъкана от случайни срещи, от сблъсъци с малките вселени на други човешки същества и отчупване на частици звезден прах от тях, от вплитане в орбитите им. Умът му се люшка като клета платноходка в бурен океан, издига кумири и поваля идоли и робува на собствените си непостоянни настроения. Никога не съм разбирала добре хората на изкуството. Рядко пристъпват извън своите Фарадееви кафези, но когато това стане, ги поразяват сякаш всички мълнии на света. Горе става долу и ти иде да повярваш в поне шест невъзможни неща преди закуска.

Личната мълния на Филип идва в лицето на Милдрид. Това е от онези покосяващи влюбвания, които са в разрез с всякаква логика и дори собственият ти разум се противи. Ясно е, че любовта и разумът често нямат нищо общо, даже понякога са в двата враждуващи лагера и си погаждат мръсни номерца. Филип бавничко учи тази истина, но това не му пречи отново и отново да пада по лице в септичната яма на пагубните си чувства. Дори успява доста трезво да се самонаблюдава отстрани и с бегъл интерес да прави вивисекция на увлечението си по анемичната Милдрид. Дали на някого му пука, че любовта му няма смисъл? Не, защото всъщност няма значение. Някои уроци се учат мъчително и някои битки трябва сам да ги водиш, защото когато друг ти каже, че са изгубени предварително, няма да му повярваш. Просто трябва ти да се увериш в това.

Филип Кери иска всичко. Иска обаянието на света, приключенския живот на пътешественик и бохемското декадентство на творец. Ще му се да скицира един идеален миг и да живее в него. Иска да намери хармонията на съществуването и се ужасява, че тя е просто красив мит. ‘I want a perfect body/ I want a perfect soul’, биха изпели Radiohead по този повод (и все ще се намери кой да изсъска ‘But you’re a Creep ’). Или cripple в случая на Филип. Хората прощават много придобити пороци, но никога недъзите, с които си се родил.

Започнах с това, че Съмърсет Моъм Е. Той ме накара да повярвам на Филип. Убеди ме в съществуването му. В колебанията и несигурността му. Най-вече в желанието му да открие смисъла и щастието. Когато изказвам хвалебствия за автор, когото до онзи ден не съм чела, се чувствам малко като невярна съпруга на всички останали свои любими писатели, но какво да се прави. Литературата е създадена да ��е обича безразборно и моногамията не влиза в сметките. Перото на Моъм не се характеризира с изтънченото многословие на Хенри Джеймс или с остроумните наблюдения на Джейн Остин, нито с парадоксалните духовитости на Оскар Уайлд. То е простичко, като че Моъм разказва едва ли не на себе си. И все пак разказва от сърце.

‘The ridicule and the contempt which had so often been heaped upon him had turned his mind inward and called forth those flowers which he felt would never lose their fragrance. Then he saw that the normal was the rarest thing in the world. Everyone had some defect, of body or of mind: he thought of all the people he had known (the whole world was like a sick-house, and there was no rhyme or reason in it), he saw a long procession, deformed in body and warped in mind, some with illness of the flesh, ...and some with illness of the spirit.’
Profile Image for Jason Koivu.
Author 7 books1,209 followers
May 23, 2013
I had no idea what Of Human Bondage was about going in. I'd heard vague, unreliable rumors and I expected a dense, difficult read, perhaps a philosophical mind-bender or hell, by the title and date of its publication (1914) I wouldn't have been terribly surprised if it turned out to be a naughty Victorian era S&M novel (Can you imagine all those naked ankles? Forsooth!)

It's just a coming of age tale. I'm not even sure "tale" is the appropriate term considering how very autobiographical this book turns out to be. It's not loosely based on W. Somerset Maugham's life, it is his life. Sure, the details are changed or rearranged a bit, such as giving his main character Philip a clubfoot instead of the stammer he actually had or having the character be a struggling painter instead of the struggling writer Maugham was, but in the end this is Maugham's early life.

The story starts at the beginning of Philip's life and ends when he's in his thirties. Much of the first half describes his school days and youthful experiences abroad. The later half focuses mainly upon an infatuation in which he allows himself to be used time and again by a woman who has no love for him. So pathetic did he become in my eyes during this section that I had a hard time stomaching it. His intense love for an undeserving woman tested the believability waters a time or two in my eyes, but I'd heard of how middle and upper class Englishmen of that time often developed fancies for poor shop girls, so I was able to hang in there. I have a feeling not everyone else would have that same kind of stamina. I'm not boasting, it's just down to taste and patience for certain kinds of, I don't know, let's call it entertainment.

The rumor of potential philosophizing was true to a point. There was plenty of the sort expected from college students who major in the arts, and who think art is the most important thing in life...nay, more important than life itself! Many a high-minded declaration of this nature is made through out the middle section of this book. Certainly there are insights, but there are just as many follies. But for all its philosophizing, Of Human Bondage is just about a guy trying to figure out who he is and what he believes in. It asks with a cyclical repetition "who am I?" while simultaneously stating "This is who I am." Philip doesn't know the true answer or the meaning of the answer he gives. Half time you wonder if he understands the meaning of the question. And perhaps that's the point. What is the meaning of life, and what does that question really mean?

Profile Image for Rowena.
500 reviews2,438 followers
October 9, 2012
This was my first Maugham book and I'm very glad I was recommended it. The story was essentially the coming of age story of an orphaned boy who was born with a clubfoot.He tries to find himself in many different ways and places; in Germany, in Paris, in London etc.

I loved the parts of the novel which dealt with the Bohemian lifestyle in Paris. It was basically the stereotypical image one gets when imagining poor, struggling, artists. The characters I met in this section were among my favourites in the whole book.

The book deals with many issues, for example loss of faith, youth trying to discover their destiny, love (Phillip's love for the cruel and selfish Mildred was very obsessive, moreso than I expected), lost dreams, philosophy etc.

I quite liked the protagonist, Phillip. I did find him quite naive at times but I liked his introspective nature and his artistic temperament. I can definitely see why so many people feel they can relate to him.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,812 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.