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Of Human Bondage

4.08 of 5 stars 4.08  ·  rating details  ·  26,392 ratings  ·  1,831 reviews
Of Human Bondage (1915) by W. Somerset Maugham is a semi-autobiographical novel, a striking psychological masterwork of one young man's life journey, obsession, love, alienation and personal vulnerability.Philip Carey, subtle, intellectual and artistic, is born with a club foot, a condition which causes him lifelong psychological torment. Philip spends his youth as an art...more
Paperback, 624 pages
Published March 1st 2007 by Norilana Books (first published 1914)
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I fell in love with this book; it spoke to me, and I will aways have a strong affection for it. After three weeks of opening its pages virtually every night, I now find myself saddened that I can no longer turn to it. How can anything else compare?

Of Human Bondage is a classic in every positive sense of the word. Aside from The Brothers Karamazov, it is the only book I've read, whereupon finishing, I was able to say to myself: "This novel is life itself: it contains all of its complexities, emo...more

A lot of this book is quite harrowing – you know the drill, young boy orphaned and alone in the world and being brought up by people without affection. Public school nightmares, a child with a deformity that causes him shame all his life.

I was not surprised to learn that Maugham was homosexual, or bisexual, or trisexual – or whatever it was that he was. There are subtle hints to the fact throughout the book.

Young Philip, the central character (rather than protagonist, I think – as there is some...more

The following is American Idol judge Nicki Manaj's critique of Of Human Bondage


Hello darling. You know that I'm completely obsessed with you right now. I just want to say first of awll that your mustache is very becoming. And that ascot gets me really hot and bothered. It totally Does! I'll be honest with you sweetie, it makes me think very naughty thoughts.

Now listen darling, I have 4 words for you: This book is everything !

Seriously, sweetie, it's on another lev-el. It's completely beyond. Yo...more
Has one of literature's great lines about reading:

"Insensibly he formed the most delightful habit in the world, the habit of reading: he did not know that thus he was providing himself with a refuge from all the distress of life; he did not know either that he was creating for himself an unreal world which would make the real world of every day a source of bitter disappointment."
Mar 30, 2011 Mariel rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Mildrewed Philistines
Recommended to Mariel by: Trevor
Of Human Bondage used to be under my (re)tired "waiting-until-I'm-not-too-depressed" shelf on goodreads (it had no company. What's the time before birth? I'm gonna say purgatory anyway). Yeah, right. Jump, Mariel, jump! I'm glad it is out of the way. It's the uncomfortable conversations like religious people might feel if they are unstable in faith. The glimpses when someone points out to you a fact (weeeelll) about yourself that pulls off every straggled hair as it is yanked off. I started read...more
This book grew on me; it sort of seeps into you. Maugham is a good story teller and his characters are drawn well. It is a story of obsession, desire and yearning for something beyond the ordinary run of life. The hero, Philip Carey is not a conventional hero; he has a difficult childhood, a club foot which deeply affects him, he's awkward and often uncomfortable with people. We follow Philip from childhood, the death of his parents, living with his very religious aunt and uncle, boarding school...more
Jason Koivu
I had no idea what Of Human Bondage was about going in. I'd heard vague, unreliable rumors and I expected a dense, difficult read, perhaps a philosophical mind-bender or hell, by the title and date of its publication (1914) I wouldn't have been terribly surprised if it turned out to be a naughty Victorian era S&M novel (Can you imagine all those naked ankles? Forsooth!)

It's just a coming of age tale. I'm not even sure "tale" is the appropriate term considering how very autobiographical this...more
Jul 07, 2008 Martine rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who are looking for the meaning of life
Of Human Bondage is a Bildungsroman which frequently makes you groan and mentally exclaim 'Oh, no!', only to blow you away with the power of its message and the perfection of its ending. Over the course of the 656-page book, the main character, Philip Carey, a young orphan born with a clubfoot, takes many wrong turns, mostly because he has taken it into his head that he wants to live the life of a romantic hero. He makes unwise career moves, recklessly spends money he should have saved, and gets...more
Jenna  *Puddin Tame*
First of all, I would like to thank William for recommending this book.

And also Mike and Heather for confirming how great this book is.

After reading the book, We Are Not Ourselves, and speaking how it was so character-driven, I was told how Of Human Bondage could pull some serious emotion from the characters as well. A story that is successful at building three-dimensional characters have this way of making you feel as though you are walking along with them through life, at least until this char...more
It is not very comfortable to have the gift of being amused at one's own absurdity. (p.350)

What beautifully flawed and frustrated characters Maugham created in Of Human Bondage! This book pulled me in quickly and I loved walking alongside Philip Carey, a boy born with a clubfoot and orphaned at a young age, as he struggled into adulthood. Every character in this story, whether a major player or a minor one, is so real and raw -- they are all alive and despicable in their own authentic ways.

It doesn’t take much effort to decipher a point of distinction in one’s existence when the naiveté jolted out of its lugubrious slumber, shaken into reality groped for a meaning and a reason, previously un-conceived and unexpected, aided by a book, ideas that shook the very base of a citadel made-believe to have deeply entrenched roots only to be found suspended merely over fictional clouds floating in ether of one’s prejudiced and over-rated mystical, idealistic imagination. ‘Of Human Bondage’...more
Oct 09, 2012 Rowena rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: All classics lovers
Shelves: classics
This was my first Maugham book and I'm very glad I was recommended it. The story was essentially the coming of age story of an orphaned boy who was born with a clubfoot.He tries to find himself in many different ways and places; in Germany, in Paris, in London etc.

I loved the parts of the novel which dealt with the Bohemian lifestyle in Paris. It was basically the stereotypical image one gets when imagining poor, struggling, artists. The characters I met in this section were among my favourites...more
4.5 stars

It has sometimes seemed to me that if the author can in no way keep himself out of his work it might be better if he put in as much of himself as possible.

- William Somerset Maugham.

Of Human Bondage was written in 1915 following a philosophical theme that William Somerset Maugham was developing during his first novel. It is Maugham's semi-autobiographical novel.

Philip Carey, born with a physically deformed foot, is orphaned at a very young age. He is raised in the house of his stoic, r...more
Dave Russell
Have you ever felt an author had stolen your thoughts and feelings and put them in a book? I felt that way through this entire book.
I am sure you will agree with me that there are books one is better off reading when one is older and more experienced. On the other hand, there are also books one should have read 20 years earlier. For me personally, ‘Of Human Bondage’ belongs to the latter category. It had been gathering dust on my father’s bookshelf for years (in German translation) and I never thought about it. To tell you the truth, this book crossed my path again because of ‘The Goldfinch’, an impressive Pulitzer-winning B...more
Stephen P
Originally published in 1915, Of Human Bondage, relies on the influence of external events rather than our post-modern style of internal fragmentation. Maugham's silken prose weaves the conventions, rituals, and rectitude of the time with the obsessions, passions, and desires about to rupture beneath. It is the the calmness of Maugham's elegant style which leaves us cringing breathless in the expectation of imminent explosion.

Orphaned, physical deformity, war, societal pressure, obsession with a...more
Rakhi Dalal
Oh Dear me, “Why do you have to read a book to find some meaning out of it? Why can’t you just read it for the sake of reading the way it is narrated? May be to appreciate an author’s work if it appeals to you and to wonder how beautiful written word can be?”

When I picked up this book, I was at first annoyed by the very slow start of it. But gradually as I moved on, I started enjoying the narration. Maugham has very strikingly captured the various facets of Philip, the protagonist, as he contin...more
One of my favorite novels; yet, strangely, I have difficulty understanding the hero (anti-hero?) Philip Carey. Philip, like the author himself, is orphaned and brought up by his uncle. Harshly treated, he is burdened with liabilities, both physical, a clubfoot, and intellectual, a habit of making the least of his opportunities through bad choices and/or lack of talent.
As I reread the novel I am immediately impressed by the importance of reading for the young Philip Carey. He turns to reading to...more
I'm not sure if this is hands-down the best book I've ever read in my life or if I was just in the right frame of mind to really appreciate it but I just absolutely loved this book a ridiculous amount. I have never read a book which so clearly, yet not hopelessly, illuminates the degradation of the human condition.

Phillip has to be the most memorable fictional character ever. A misanthropic, godless, failed artist, with far too high of an opinion of his own mediocre intellect, who gives up on e...more
I tried and tried to get through this book. I stuck by Phillip hoping that eventually he would get his act together. It became quite tiresome to read about him making one pathetically wrong choice after another. He was a complete weakling and I could not get through the book because of it.

This novel has been stated to be one of the best books written. Perhaps I missed something great by not sticking it out to the end, but I just could not. There are too many other great stories to read.
You know those people that are scared of silence? So, if you find yourself in a situation where talk isn’t necessary, you can just enjoy the view, those people will ridiculously blabber just because they think they have to.

'Isn’t this traffic jam just exhausting. Every day the same, oh, look, this guy with a guitar is crossing the street, I wonder where he is going. See, that blue car didn’t even see this tram, nearly knocked this lad over! Omg, luckily, it’s such a nice day, imagine if it were...more
I read this just before going on my recent quest to read (at least some) novels by women of color. I decided on doing this out of frustration with the fact that the mostly "classic" lit I'd been reading was almost overwhelmingly, inappropriately, disgustingly dominated by white men. This book, I think, was the ultimate white male literary send off. It is long and simply told, without any of this "look at me I can write fancy sentences!" nonsense. In my opinion, Maugham does orphanhood better tha...more
This Bildungsroman novel tells the story of Philip Carey, a lame orphan with a club foot who is raised by his uncle and aunt, his uncle a self-centered Vicar in England, his aunt a loving and conventional parson’s wife who projects onto Philip all the aspirations she might have had if she had had a child of her own. Humiliated throughout his childhood because of his deformity, Philip has a variety of unfortunate experiences throughout his schooling, eventually becoming apprenticed to an accounta...more
Eric Aiello
What we have in Of Human Bondage is one of the greatest and all-encompassing stories to ever come from human kind. Written in the early 1900s, Maugham's novel is not only incredibly relevant in today's society but should also be required reading in our schools. I, for one, had never heard of this book until I was well into college (and even then it was not by professors but by the internet). The novel is essentially a bildungsroman tale (coming-of-age tale - allow me to also recommend Nervous Co...more
Jul 25, 2007 Skipp rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
Amazing. My favorite book. A long, beautifully written, intimate portrait of the human condition. Maugham is a genius. I felt very connected to the protagonist and his life even though it was set in England almost 100 years ago. I recommend this to anyone, but I feel that young people (20s-30s) still exploring their place in life will get the most value from it.
Alice Poon
When I was about two-thirds through the book, I was getting so exasperated by Philip’s (the protagonist) foolish, maudlin, almost masochistic kind of blind passion for an undeserving woman named Mildred, that I was ready to give up reading there and then. But then I pressed on, and I’m glad that I did.

Overall, for a “bildungsroman” (coming-of-age story), I find “Of Human Bondage” tending a bit much on the grim and dark side of life throughout with almost no relief until the very end, when a silv...more
K. Hosein
“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.”

There are many types of addiction. When we think of it, we usually think of substance abuse. But then there is the addiction of television, fame, adrenaline, company and much more. Of Human Bondage deals with the addiction of love, or what one may perceive as love. The novel opens with Philip Carey, now a nine year old orphan due to hi...more
This book strikes me as -- Maugham said he put his life in it and it shows. It is richly textured and -- I had never associated this word with Maugham before this! -- poetic. There are passages in there which are of breathtaking beauty. I am working for a Maugham scholar as an RA and he [my prof] says it's depressing but I actually found it comforting. I suppose the notion that one can find beauty in life and existence despite bollocks makes me feel a bit better. The end, as my prof notes, is un...more
Não me considero digna de opinar sobre esta obra grandiosa.
Ouso, apenas, deixar um singela recomendação de leitura deste livro que fala da vida e do seu significado
Durante setecentos páginas convivi com uma das personagens mais humanas da literatura, na medida em que cada um de nós tem um pouco de Philip Carey.
Desde a infância acompanhei esta personagem fabulosa. Vivi a sua perda de inocência, a sua descrença no divino e no humano. Revoltei-me com os erros que cometeu, com as sua fraquezas. Sof...more
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William Somerset Maugham was born in Paris in 1874. He spoke French even before he spoke a word of English, a fact to which some critics attribute the purity of his style.

His parents died early and, after an unhappy boyhood, which he recorded poignantly in 'Of Human Bondage' , Maugham became a qualified physician. But writing was his true vocation. For ten years before his first success, he alm...more
More about W. Somerset Maugham...
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“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.” 629 likes
“It is an illusion that youth is happy, an illusion of those who have lost it; but the young know they are wretched for they are full of the truthless ideal which have been instilled into them, and each time they come in contact with the real, they are bruised and wounded. It looks as if they were victims of a conspiracy; for the books they read, ideal by the necessity of selection, and the conversation of their elders, who look back upon the past through a rosy haze of forgetfulness, prepare them for an unreal life. They must discover for themselves that all they have read and all they have been told are lies, lies, lies; and each discovery is another nail driven into the body on the cross of life.” 406 likes
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