Larry Darrell is a young American in search of the absolute. The progress of this spiritual odyssey involves him with some of Maugham's most brilliant characters: his fiancée Isabel, whose choice between love and wealth have lifelong repercussions; and Elliot Templeton, her uncle, a classic expatriate American snob.
The most ambitious of Maugham's novels, this is also one in which Maugham himself plays a considerable part as he wanders in and out of the story, to observe his characters struggling with their fates.
William Somerset Maugham (25 January 1874 – 16 December 1965) was an English playwright, novelist and short story writer. He was among the most popular writers of his era and reputedly the highest paid author of the 1930s. Maugham was orphaned by the age of ten, but after an unhappy childhood, he flourished when he moved to London to study medicine as a young man, giving him plenty of inspiration for his literary ambitions. His first novel, Liza Of Lambeth, sold out in a matter of weeks, prompting Maugham to leave medicine and embark on a 65-year career as a man of letters. By 1914 he was famous, with ten successful plays produced and ten novels published. In 1917, he was asked by the British Secret Intelligence Service (now MI6) to undertake a special mission in Russia; an experience which would go on to inspire Ashenden, a collection of short stories about a gentlemanly spy that influenced Ian Fleming’s James Bond series. Maugham’s most famous works include Of Human Bondage, a semiautobiographical novel, The Moon and Sixpence, Cakes and Ale and The Razor's Edge. His writing has inspired a string of over 35 film adaptations and has influenced many notable authors, including Anthony Burgess, George Orwell and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
©1944 Somerset Maugham (P)2012 Audible Ltd
This is my first reading of a book by Maugham. It transported me. The characterisation was brilliant. All of the characters, especially the main character, Larry, were described with obvious insight. The eastern point of view, the essence of Hinduism and its implications for the west, was captured succinctly by the author. The narration suited the story and contributed to my immersion. The themes are now more vital and current than at the time of writing. It is fascinating to follow Larry's journey in both the physical and spiritual landscapes, a journey followed, of course, by many in subsequent generations.
This book shows that nothing has changed in human nature despite wars, depression and financial crashes. I loved the possibility of freedom that is shown in Larry's character and the realistic way the other characters have been portrayed, relevant even in today's society.
I found myself pondering life in all sorts of ways, and couldn't wait to get back to it if I had to turn it off.
"Blunted over time?"
This was a book that I remember first reading in Ireland in 1979 having borrowed it from Pyle library in South Wales and being impressed by the title alone. It was the first book by W. Somerset Maugham that I’d ever read and it made such a positive impression on me at that time that it lead me first to a range of ancillary reading around European philosophy and Eastern religions and then into repeated visits to Maugham’s Œuvre.
Now, after thirty years I re-read on the basis that my son was looking for something to reflect his first awareness and interest in Eastern religions and I suggested that he give it a go. Whilst some of the central narrative remains as sharp as ever, I was disappointed to find that on re-reading it is not the great work of revelation that my mind had honed it to become. There is a lot of superfluous non-activity and a fair bit of fairly non-enhancing detail, so that the final third of the novel left me impatient to get back to the central theme of the action.
Some important highlights and a great stepping stone into other works - I am a big fan of Maugham's stories and novels - but ultimately there was that small let down when I finally completed this one. My son reckons he enjoyed it hugely, however.
"One of my desert island books"
This is a masterpiece IMO. It's about the meaning of life. The characters seek it in different ways and find it (some in death - not all the endings are conventionally happy). Along the way, there is the wonderfully objective narrator who makes you laugh out loud at times. The exchange about the inscription on Elliott's tombstone, for example. The older I get, the more I think Maugham's approach is the only one to take.
The reading was good, although the narrator might have done a bit better with his French. The American accents were OK to my ear but I don't guarantee them - Americans should listen to a sample first as it's very off putting to hear the wrong accent. But whatever you do, listen to this or read it, once when you are young and once when you are older, and see if your response changes.
"The Golden Age"
I first enjoyed Somerset Maughham when taking English as a student. I have not read anything from him since but decided to give this book a try and I am very glad I did.
A thoughtprovoking story, very well read and it has you longing for being well-off and living in the first decades of the 20th centuary.
If you managed to avoid WW1, that is.
"I loved it from beginning to end"
I'm a huge fan of both the author and narrator so this was a real treat for me.
A relaxing story to listen to but by no means dull, don't get me wrong. Gordon Griffin reads so well, the voices he created for Somerset Maugham's complex characters formed a vivid picture in my mind without my even noticing it.
This was a real joy.
"Quite entertaining but a little preachy"
I'm always struck by the author's ability to imagine his narrative and characters, but I can't entirely enjoy his actual storytelling. His stories always seem so much more successful when performed on film or stage - possibly because I prefer a more literary, rather than literal, style of writing. In this novel it also felt that he contrived the story and characters to be a little preachy about certain issues and world views, which didn't help.
"One to savour"
Slow paced with wonderful narration that keeps the listener's attention throughout. The the interweaving of complex relationships and characters is masterful.
"Difficult book made easier"
I found the religious content difficult to digest
I had wanted to read this book for years as I love Somerset Maugham and found listening to it easier than reading it. It is a difficult book made easier
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