He leaves his betrothed, the beautiful and devoted Isabel. He studies philosophy and religion in Paris. He lives as a monk. He witnesses the exotic hardships of Spanish life. All of life that he can find - from an Indian Ashrama to labor in a coal mine - becomes Larry's spiritual experiment as he spurns the comfort and privilege of the Roaring '20s.
Maugham's theme is the contrast of spiritual content between Larry and the growing materialism and sophistication of those he left behind - and the surprising irony of where both of those paths lead.
©2003 W. Somerset Maugham; (P)2004 Brilliance Audio, Inc.
This is deeply subjective. We all are effected differently, but there are a few books that cause us to see life in a different way. I mean to really open our eyes and change us in an indescribable way. Well, for me, this is one of those books. I re-read the physical book and re-listen to this excellent audio version periodically and feel so very lucky to have it in my life. You may or may not have the same experience, but I cannot recommend this book with greater enthusiasm. I am a better person for having read it.
Reader and Writer from Colorado Springs carefully disguised as a financial advisor all these years. Who knows what lies below a snowy rooftop?
Rarely do I go out of my way to recommend books to friends. More rarely a book written by an English writer published in 1944. No action novel this, but I've been talking about it to friends even since before I finished it. It's on a par with The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald's earlier work of the same era, the Jazz Age. And let me say if Elizabeth Gilbert had gotten it right, she might have written Razor's Edge. If you liked her book, you should love this one. If you hated her book, as I did, you may still love Somerset Maugham's book if the subject of man's journey to enlightenment is your cup of tea. Beyond the literary value and the weight of the tome, the narrator in this edition is the best narrator I've listened to, possessed of a vocal range that makes this audio book a rare treat. If you're still reading this review, then I think you'll love the book. Give it a shot!
Computer Programmer and Worship Leader. Have enjoyed reading since my mom got me hooked on Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie prior to my teen years. My brother got me hooked on audio books after I started having a longer commute to work. Love a variety of genres.
I had run into this story by accident when renting the newer version of the movie (with Bill Murray). I liked it so well that I rented the earlier version (with Tyrone Powers?) and loved it just as much, even thought the two are somewhat different.
Definitely a thought-provoking book, no matter what your position on matters of theology. In one sense, the book is summed up by a statement Larry (the main character) makes partway through the book. He says he is searching to find out if there really is a God, because everything else in life depends on the answer to that question (my paraphrase).
While you may or may not agree with Larry's final conclusion about God and morality, the search he goes through, and his commitment to REALLY search for the truth make for a great read. The characters around him, who are on a much different journey - seeking position, power and wealth - really contrast the "examined" and the "unexamined" life.
It is also an interesting literary device to have the author actually appear as a character in the story - something I don't think I've seen before.
If you've seen the movies, the book is much truer to the black and white adapatation.
Regardless of my differences in theology with the book, it was a great read and really makes you think!
I found my reaction to this book deeply introspective. I'll admit I've seen the Bill Murray film version some time ago, so that had me interested in reading the original novel. I can't say I recall whether the film is all that faithful to the book. The book could have been quite tedious with the social lives of the well to do, but the author is careful not to dwell too much on all that. There are many delightful characters, and I found some connection to Larry and his quest. I imagine if you're not particularly curious about deeper questions this book would be an utter bore. I appreciate the author presenting ideas, while I felt him to be careful not to make his own opinions to be too obvious, letting me decide whether Larry has followed the "right" path. I greatly enjoyed reading, and am glad to have selected this work.
This is the only book of Maugham's that I have actually read (kindle e reader), listened to (audible) and seen the movie (Tyrone Power and Bill Murray versions). I found this audio book version to be the best of the three mediums. Narration was outstanding and I felt more involved with the story and characters than I did with the book and the movies. I would recommend this recording to anyone with any interest in Maugham's books.
One master-passion in the br east, like Aaron's serpent, swallows all the rest. A. Pope
When purchasing this, I considered that I watched the movie with Bill Murray in what I recall as his first real foray into serious acting. I was impacted by that movie, though I have few memories of it. So I decided to purchase both the book and the audiobook.
In the novel, the narrator tells the story of Larry Darrell, who was severely affected by the death of his friend, another soldier in WWII. He comes to several self-realizations through time and travels over continents and religions. The book has a brief emotional pull from his lost love, his fiancee Isabel, who turns out to be deficient in character, and from his engagement to Sophie, a wayward girl from Chicago who Larry and the group of the characters meet one night at a bar in Paris. She'd lost her husband and her way through various chemicals and bedfellows.
One thing I will always recall from this novel was the keen observation of man or woman's desire to save someone through sacrifice of self, when referring to the grip of passion over Larry who by becoming engaged to marry Sophie is trying to "save the soul of a wanton woman whom he'd known as an innocent child."
"... self-sacrifice is a passion so overwhelming that beside it even lust and hunger are trifling. It whirls its victim to destruction in the highest affirmation of his personality. The object doesn't matter; it may be worthwhile or it may be worthless. No wine is so intoxicating, no love so shattering, no vice so compelling. When he sacrifices himself man for a moment is [or believes himself to be] greater than God, for how can God, infinite and omnipotent, sacrifice himself? At best he can only sacrifice his only begotten son."
If you've known someone who's fallen for someone else to save him or her, it's quite likely you will likely agree with this statement. The person was sucked into a whirlwind leading, more often than not, to tragedy.
I recommend this book with 4.5 stars, with the proviso that it does get slow in places. I thought the narrator was good, but his narration gets taxing in parts.
Retired CFO, Army wife, Mom of five, Grandma of six, two sons who served in combat, love to read books that reflect my values and faith, love mysteries, historical, military stories, and books that don't waste my time . . . if it doesn't have an ending that was worth the wait, I'm not a happy camper.
As Solomon said, there is nothing new under the sun . . . While I found this book quite interesting, particularly the historical accounts of WWI and pre and post depression America and Europe, I ultimately found the characters doing what all of humanity has always done . . . chase their tails like cats. There was nothing truly profound or enlightening here, just men and women doing what the human race has always done, seeking self gratification. In the beginning I really liked Larry, well, I even liked him in the end, but by then, I found him to be more like a 1970s hippie, than an injured soul seeking spiritual understanding. Wandering around life with few human attachments, thinking he has lived lives in other bodies, etc. I had hoped that he would find God, the ONE true God. But it didn't happen. Having said all that, Larry's choices and that of all the other friends in the author's tale are not upheld, justified, nor scolded . . . only told . . . and that is the only salvation for this book . . . and the one reason that I could find it an enjoyable listen. The era is one of turmoil, of changes, of a time, particularly in Europe, that I find fascinating . . . that's the part I enjoyed most.
The reader was exceptional- he was beyond maintaining clarity, but created an interesting distinction between characters and used a great deal of expression. I found myself thinking with a English inclination after awhile of listening.
The plot of the story was not one of great suspense or intensity- instead we stepped into the characters lives and picked apart their inner workings. Throughout the novel one gets a chance to question spirituality, purpose, reality, and relationships. The plot was slow- but my mind never drifted off. There is no doubt that Maugham could write about anything or nothing and he would still have my attention. This listen is surely brain food and comforting to revisit, but is certainly not a listen that would satisfy those with constant and veracious need for exciting stimulation. Rather, it slowly but surely hooks you before you've realized it has even casted it line.
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