Published by Penguin Classics on March 1st 1992
Buy on Amazon
I had been hearing positive things about this book for quite some time. I have heard people refer to it as a beautifully written masterpiece. I choose to read this book for a book challenge and was excited when my coy was available at the library
I almost put this book down. I had a really hard time in the beginning of this book. I also hard a hard time figuring out why. I know that I did not care for the font used in the particular copy I had picked up. But I can always look past that if the story was good. I believe the writing itself was hard to grasp for me in the beginning. It is not that the writing is bad – just the opposite it was wonderful. Perhaps I was not in the space to read such a book. What I do know is that I started and stopped this book, had to go back and read then re-read sections. The story is told by Maugham himself as the narrator and also a writer who is an acquaintance then friend in this book.
This book is often explained as being about Larry, but really its about Larry and his friends and acquaintances. It is through his friends and family that we really get to see who Larry is. It is through their eyes that we see Larry’s personality change after serving as a pilot in WWI. After being wounded in WWI, Larry returns to Chicago to inform his finance, Isabel that he intends to live off his inheritance and not seek paid employment. He delays their marriage and moves to Paris. He intends to study and basically not doing much else. Isabel visits and when she does not want to join him for his life of wandering, she breaks their engagement and returns home. There she meets and marries, Gray. During this time, the character of Sophie has married and then lost her husband and baby in a car accident. Through the course of the book we see her spiral into drugs and alcohol.
Back to Larry, over the course of a couple of decades, the reader sees Larry travel the world and meet interesting characters. Larry is content with his life of searching and wandering. He does not feel the pressure to live life as his friends live. He is a nice guy who searches for spiritual answers while wandering the world. He is looking for answers. In the end, most of the characters get what they want and/or are looking for: Sophie – Death, Isabel – an assured position of prominence, Larry – happiness, Elliott – Social status.
Again, initially I found this book very hard to get into initially. I think it was the way the story is told. I was/am not used to this style of writing: the story told to the narrator by others. It really did take some time and work. This is a book to read and think about, read some more, then think some more. I am a fast reader and this book forced me to slow down and think.