OF HUMAN BONDAGE by W. Somerset Maugham

A handful of small books exist whose characters capture our imaginations so fully, and the prose is delivered with such precise detail and movement, we can’t stop ourselves from rereading them again, and again. Of Human Bondage is not one of them. But you must devour it at least once.

I have no doubt about the love affair that will form between you and Somerset Maugham, however, his first 100 pages may lead you to believe he isn’t interested in capturing your heart. For many readers investing in his opening will be like watching a black and white film when all prior movie experiences have been color. The style is foreign. But with a bit of patience you’ll slip into his rhythm and his prose will feel like sable.

Do we love our protagonist Philip Carey? Probably not. Throughout the novel the reader may be overcome with an uncontrollable urge to shake him and say, “Dump her and get a life!” Today, our protagonist would probably be on a slew of antidepressants and addicted to therapy. But in the early 1900’s these options weren’t available. So, although we may not love him, we have to admire his stamina as he deals with the emotional pain of his life while his physical security is threatened.

We also cannot help empathizing with his journey—a coming of age story to rival Holden Caulfield. Philip possesses none of Holden’s sense of humor and he lives in a time period detached from our sensibilities, but his search for happiness, love and a desire to understand the meaning of life when life is not a plate of caviar is something we all wrestle with at one point or another.

Philip’s struggle to create a life worth living is the very reason we stay glued to the page. Who hasn’t thought about greener grass in a different job or city? Who doesn’t wonder if their finances will hold out? And show me a heart that hasn’t yearned for an impossible mate?

Of Human Bondage is an expedition into the lives of people who thrive and wither in the company of others, but wouldn’t dare live in isolation. Jump into the fray and explore the delicacies of a time long gone and all too close.

Join Philip Carey’s journey of self-discovery through Of Human Bondage.