One of the most widely read novels of the 20th century, W. Somerset Maugham's masterpiece, Of Human Bondage, gives a harrowing depiction of unrequited love. Philip Carey, a sensitive orphan born with a clubfoot, finds himself in desperate need of passion and inspiration. He abandons his studies to travel, first to Heidelberg and then to Paris, where he nurses ambitions of becoming a great artist.
Philip's youthful idealism erodes, however, as he comes face-to-face with his own mediocrity and lack of impact on the world. After returning to London to study medicine, he becomes wildly infatuated with Mildred, a vulgar, tawdry waitress, and begins a doomed love affair that will change the course of his life.
First published in 1915, the semi-autobiographical Of Human Bondage combines the values left over from the Victorian era with the prevailing irony and despair of the early 20th century. Unsentimental yet bursting with deep feeling, Of Human Bondage remains Maugham's most complete statement of the importance of physical and spiritual liberty, a theme that resounds more loudly than ever today.
Public Domain (P)2011 Tantor
I had looked forward to listening to this but found the narration so inappropriate that I had to give up after 6 hours. The book itself is, presumably, a subtle portrayal of the childhood and youth of an often unlikeable character. Since the story is unremittingly centered around this one character I imagine that it is quite a demanding read and requires some careful interpretation. Here it is read as though it is a "Billy Bunter" story; with an over-dramatised, whining, upper-class accent imposed on the main character and caricatured female 'voices' imposed on all the women characters. This makes it a ridiculous and pointless story. I am sorry to be critical of an actor but feel strongly that "buyers should be aware".
I really hated the first half of this book. And it's a long half. I got to Chapter 76 before anything really engaged my attention. The hero is hugely flawed and utterly infuriating, but somehow by the time I got to the end I was actually rooting for him. I'm going to have to reflect on the reference to 'bondage' - and probably read a bit more about what Maugham was referring to. I'm sure there's more to think about than just the story itself.
I found the language quaint, and it was nice to hear words I used in my childhood restored to their glory. I had to look up some terms that I think have gone out of use completely now.
The pace of the story was frustrating. Dwelling for a chapter or two on some minor deliberation, and then skipping 2 years in a sentence. This annoyed me, and was one of the reasons I struggled with the first half.
The narration was excellent - good strong characterisation and some lovely humour. I'd just finished another book narrated by him, and it struck me how different the style was here. Full marks.
So now I'm going to go and think about this book... You will need stamina and determination to get through it, but on balance I'd say it would be worth it.
"Good Story of a Wounded Man"
This is an excellent Bildungsroman, if you don't mind a central figure who is more buffeted by the ideas and actions of others that the active agent in his own life.
The reading is good, except for the voice adopted for the Mildred character. That was like something out of a much more comic performance.
"You won't want it to end!"
Simple in writing but it draws you in and makes you relate and remember experiences, feelings and situations in yourself and friends that are similar to the best and worst characters in the story. It wraps up a little quicker then I expected after such a long audio but it's probably the best book I've heard to date and has had me thinking and rethinking situations, events in my own life. It was a fantastic listen!
Main character provokes very little sympathy, and narration is not suited to audiobooks (as other have commented, narrator faded off dramatically at the end of sentences).
"One of the best stories"
I cannot believe that the novel was published in 1915. Humans haven't evolved very much in the last 100 years as i could relate so well to the emotions expressed in the book!
"Great book, reader not good for the car"
The performance was good, except he drops his voice at the end of sentences, so it's no good unless you're in a very quiet place. Even then , I didn't catch everything
"Reader is terrible"
I loved the Razor's Edge and the reader there was wonderful but I will NEVER read another book narrated by Crossley. He varies his volume extremely and drops very low and soft at the end of some words, so much so that I cannot follow his rendition. I had to ask for a credit and get the other reader.
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