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.
©1944 Somerset Maugham (P)2012 Audible Ltd
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"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.
"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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