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Publisher's Summary

Of Human Bondage is one of the greatest novels of modern times, and it is certainly Maugham's greatest achievement. It was published in 1914, when Maugham was at the height of his creative powers. The story concerns Philip Carey, afflicted at birth with a club foot, and his passionate search for truth in a cruel world. We follow his growth to manhood, his educational progress, his first loves, and the wrenching tragedies and disappointments that life has in store for him. In some of the finest prose of the 20th century, Maugham has presented us with the timeless story of one man's search for the meaning of life.

One of the main themes of the novel is the concept of ambivalence: how we are simultaneously attracted to - and repulsed by - people, objects, thoughts, and actions. Although this was not a new concept in 1914, in the hands of Maugham it was raised to a pitch of literary perfection.

Maugham thought of himself essentially as an entertainer, not as a moral philosopher or preacher. There is in his work an objective cynicism that is almost shocking at times. It is almost embarrassing to read Maugham's frank description of Philip Carey's innermost thoughts and Mildred Roger's callous disregard for anything that does not contribute to her narrow sensuality. But in the end, it is as an entertainer that we enjoy Maugham. His lively conversations and vivid descriptions will keep you listening in fascination.

Public Domain (P)2012 Audio Connoisseur

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  • Locopelli
  • Denver, CO United States
  • 11-14-15

One of the greats

Not the spiciest of subject matter, but beautifully written. Delicious character development. Great read for those wanting to experience, and especially to WRITE lasting fiction. I wanted to slap the protagonist silly sometimes--but then realized that he made the most human choices every time. Most hardships cannot be overcome with superpowers or lucky golden parachutes. They must be survived, and you would do well to learn from them.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Michael
  • Walnut Creek, CA, United States
  • 10-04-14

Greatly Unsettling

The writing and essential truth of the novel is compelling but the protagonist, who is a caring, intelligent, and thoughtful person, is buffeted by fate and his emotions control much of his life. I did not like the protagonist, even at the end of the book. Yet, this book is not about the protagonist, it had no action, and is not even a story of a journey of discovery, but is about an idea, and the book’s title “Of Human Bondage” resonates throughout the book.

This is a great book, but this is not a book to escape into, it is a book to experience and learn from. It was not a fun read, maybe not even enjoyable, but the book is subtle and powerful. As I read the various scenes, I would think “dumb kid”, then think of human bondage, and how his passions and environment bound him, and how elusive is the path to human freedom.

I just read this for the first time in my fifties, but I could see this book would have been even more powerful if read as a young adult. I would recommend this book to any adult, but especially to young adults. This book is unsettling in the best way. My advice, when the book seems off-putting, recall the title, and read on.

The short musical interludes and rare sound effects add absolutely nothing, and are distracting but do not ruin the experience.

The narration is really excellent, expressing conflicting emotions while remaining a very clear reading of the text.

14 of 16 people found this review helpful

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The perfect book with the perfect title

This is such a fascinating book about the mind and how it works on our life choices. We see the character, Philip Carey, struggle in whatever direction he moves. He really evolves with life. He grows up. The adolescent rebel is so well described and then there is Philip in love. How we have all loved someone who does not love us back. I have always loved Maugham for his description of places. One of my favourite parts was Philip's art period in Paris. It was so full of colourful characters. Very touched by Philip's appreciation of people with character. I will savour this book for some time. Thing I liked the least: his love of Mildred. I would have edited most of that out.
Got tired of the women's' characters and voices. They all sounded so much the same. Got a bit annoying. Females do not fare well in this book.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Wonderful read!

Maugham's story telling skills are at there finest here. Of Human Bondage is a captivating story which is as relevant to human experience today as when it was written. It's simply one of the best books I ever read. And Charlton Griffin's narration is superb.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Of Human Bondage (Goin' Downton Abby)-Cello ovrlay

For whatever reason, the publisher decided to ruin the audible edition of this fine Somerset Maugham novel by a constant cello doggedly droning and frequently flaring.

I'd describe it as a cross between the background music often associated with a 1930s radio drama and what I'd imagine as the score from a Victorian-themed adult flick, say, something like "Going Downton Abby."

I couldn't enjoy the book for all the noise. In fact, I feel sick right now thinking about it.

12 of 17 people found this review helpful

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great book !

Great story and an excellent reader. I enjoyed every word. I would highly recommend this book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Grew on me<br />

I was pretty impatient in the middle as it kind of dragged. (Mildred. What a putz.) but ended up liking the. ok in the end..

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A most glorious novel!

I can't imagine what I had expected except a wonderful novel by one of my favorite novelists. I had seen the old movie with Bette Davis and was expecting something somewhat different. Something much darker and hopeless. I love everything I've ever read by Maugham and I can see why this is considered a classic and a masterpiece. We live in a dark age in so many ways. But thankfully great art and literature like this pushes that darkness away into oblivion. Because this is what the life of humanity is really about and not the dark and ugly realities that emanate from the ugly forces that continue to surround us in this tragic and dark new age which seems to be forced upon us.

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  • Kelly
  • Colorado Springs
  • 03-30-17

Profound & Rare Treasure that Everyone Should Read

I have always been a reader, but have never before set reading goals. In 2016 I made a goal for the total number of books I would read. I have done that again for 2017, but my more important and significant goal was to read the classics. And WOW I am so happy I did because I am discovering truly beautiful gems. I am wrapping myself in stories and getting to know characters which move me and linger with me...

Of Human Bondage is simply exquisite. The prose of W. Somerset Maugham is lovely and deep. His characters are strong, stubborn, smart, funny, and completely real. And Philip Carey was he best of all of those characters. He was for me a character like Owen Meany whom I fell in love with in one of my favorite books of all time, A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving -- he is horribly unlikable at times and yet I love him. He will be a part of my life for many years to come. I will remember Philip and I will grow to love him more over time just as I have done with Owen Meany. His story made me think and feel, and left me doing so long after the novel's completion. I had the sense that Philip lived his life fully which is something I often must remind myself to do. He isn't always kind or likable, and neither am I. He isn't perfect, and neither am I.

This book easily illustrates both the sacred and the profane of life. It smoothly and significantly illustrates both the miserable and the joyful aspects of love. Philip had strange and sad ideas about love -- but ones that are so true to life. Most of us have loved people who are all wrong, and been loved by people who are all right but for whom we do not feel the pull of heart-strings. So it resonates and lingers when Philip observes: "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."

W. Somerset Maugham wrote a profound book which I cannot recommend highly enough.

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Moving masterpiece

A storyline that builds and builds as you get to see the main character's soul blossom...beautiful.