Saturday, February 19, 2011

Of Human Bondage, by Somerset Maugham.

   The characters in this novel were so vivid that I feel I have met them in person. Though labeled as fiction, this book is most likely about Somerset Maugham's childhood and youth.
    Philip, the main character, lost both parents when he was nine years old, and he was raised by his uncle, just like Somerset Maugham. A few years later, he was forced to attend a boarding-school in England where he was bullied by his classmates because of his club-foot.

  How exciting it was to travel back in time and place. This book allowed me to do that. I enjoyed the trip to the time of the impressionist painters, when Philip studied art for two years in Paris. I felt I was right there with him, witnessing the classes, the debates among the art students at the cafes, the philosophical discussions...
  After those enriching two years during which Philip learned to draw and  appreciate beauty from a different perspective, he decided to change careers, and  traveled to England to become a medical doctor. I enjoyed reading about his experiences during his medical studies. During this time, he fell madly in love with a  waitress who made his life miserable. The intensity of his love for her became absurd and drove him to do ridiculous things.  I found the story fell apart when that happened. but he did  get over it eventually. Life flows like a river and Philip's life was no exception.
  The war, the stock markets and the economic hardships led him to homelessness for a little while and even the most painful situations of his life became a reminder that hard times, far from being apocalyptic, are challenges that pass.
 
   Philip looked back at his life as a tapestry, with the good and the bad woven into it, the beautiful and the painful, all part of the same piece of meaningless artwork...

4 comments:

  1. Philip's life does indeed sound challenging. Boarding schools in fiction always seem to be full of bullies.

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  2. It was interesting and it helped me to learn more about Maugham's life. It's the only novel by him that I've read. I read lots of short stories by him and I was intrigued to read one of his novels.

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  3. Thanks for this review that reminds me one of my favorite books during my 20s. I forgot the story almost all together but never forgot that tapestry! Life indeed is like a tapestry, with good or bad woven together.
    I might read it again sometime. I also like Maugham's short stories.

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    1. Hi Yun! I also love Somerset Maugham's short stories.

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