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>Of Human Bondage

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After Letty Fox: Her Luck, it was a relief to read some clear and reader-friendly prose. Of Human Bondage may not have the most likable characters you’ve ever seen, but within a paragraph or two of their introduction, they are unforgettable. Among them are Philip’s love-starved aunt, his dour uncle and Mildred, the cheap, grasping waitress that Philip inexplicably falls for, and Philip himself, who manages to overcome his self-consciousness about his clubfoot and finds out through trial and error where his talents lie.

Since Maugham was also a playwright, he seemed to have a tendency to write situations overlarge: Mildred is not only a bad girlfriend, she’s monstrous, complete with green-tinged skin that Maugham alludes to on several occasions. Philip not only hits a rough patch; he nearly starves to death. His divorcee girlfriend and the young woman he subsequently falls for are not only agreeable, they’re practically earth goddesses. Luckily, Maugham had such skill and craftsmanship he was able to pull off this kind of thing with great success.

Another testament to Maugham’s skillful writing is how he’s able to make certain situations crystal-clear, even though in 1915, when Of Human Bondage was first published, a writer tiptoed around and discreetly alluded to subjects like extramarital sex, prostitution and venereal disease. Maugham was a good boy and followed the rules while dropping a lot of strategically placed clues.

Of Human Bondage whetted my appetite for more Maugham; I’m definitely a fan of his now. I want to read another of his novels, but can’t decide on which one. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Gentle Reader wrote a much better, more in-depth review of this novel. You can view it at her enjoyable blog, Shelf Life.

Cross-posted at Outmoded Authors

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