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The Razor's Edge

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  43,739 ratings  ·  3,695 reviews
Larry Darrell is a young American in search of the absolute. The progress of this spiritual odyssey involves him with some of Maugham's most brillant characters - his fiancee Isabel, whose choice between love and wealth have lifelong repercussions, and Elliot Templeton, her uncle, a classic expatriate American snob. The most ambitious of Maugham's novels, this is also one ...more
Paperback, 314 pages
Published September 9th 2003 by Vintage International (first published 1944)
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Brett I certainly liked it better than the Great Gatsby, but I'm not sure what you mean by 'more important'. Do you mean in terms of other writers the book …moreI certainly liked it better than the Great Gatsby, but I'm not sure what you mean by 'more important'. Do you mean in terms of other writers the book influenced? The Razor's Edge was popular in its own time but hasn't remained as popular in the US. The Great Gatsby, on the other hand, didn't become popular until after Fitzgerald's death.

Also, could you say some more about the connection between the two books? Are you referring to the writing style? Or that they're both books about a group of friends with more money than sense? If it's the later, I would say that was just typical of early 20th century literature. Hemingway and Virginia Woolf use similar plot devices. The Razor's Edge theme is spiritual discovery, while I would say the Great Gatsby is more a criticism of the American Dream.

I think the theme of the Great Gatsby explains why it's remained so popular over time. The book was entered into the literary canon after World War II, at the peak of patriotism in America, when it came to be on high school reading lists all across the country. Even though this book is criticizing the American Dream, it's still *about* the American Dream, and that makes it appealing for a nation obsessed with defining itself. Which is, ultimately, what patriotism is about--a sort of national narcissism--and F. Scott Fitzgerald's book was a mirror Americans recognized themselves in. By comparison, The Razor's Edge is a much more personal story of someone obtaining "enlightenment" and how that changes their lives and the lives of their friends. As such, it lacks the epic quality of the Great Gatsby--plus Maugham can't write American dialog to save his life.

Anywho...that's just my opinion. I'm curious what others think. (less)
Juanita It is an excellent book. There is a lens onto the American mentality that paved way to its current state. But I also read it after watching the 1984 f…moreIt is an excellent book. There is a lens onto the American mentality that paved way to its current state. But I also read it after watching the 1984 film, so I was comparing how it was written to what was included in the film. The book, I feel, brings out the American aspect of the story, despite the action taking place in Europe and Asia.(less)

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Emily May
Aug 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019, classics
In all big cities there are self-contained groups that exist without intercommunication, small worlds within a greater world that lead their lives, their members dependent upon one another for companionship, as though they inhabited islands separated from each other by an unnavigable strait. Of no city, in my experience, is this more true than of Paris.

4 ½ stars. I liked this book a lot. Much more than Maugham's Of Human Bondage, but not quite as much as The Painted Veil.

The first person mi
Dec 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Books like this, that I’ve read so long ago in my past, come back even now to haunt me, like the lilting, plaintive refrain of an old Beatles Love song!

But I only started it in the mid-seventies. Even back then, working in soulless offices, I needed to replenish my heart in long, lingering draughts.

So how did I do that?

If you guessed by hanging around bookstores you nailed it!

There was a Centretown bookshop of irregular modern architectural design right at the hub of the nearby city - my wonde
Ahmad Sharabiani
(Book 570 From 1001 Books) - The Razor’s Edge – William Somerset Maugham

The Razor's Edge is a novel by W. Somerset Maugham. The book was first published in 1944.

It tells the story of Larry Darrell, an American pilot traumatized by his experiences in World War I, who sets off in search of some transcendent meaning in his life.

The story begins through the eyes of Larry's friends and acquaintances as they witness his personality change after the War.

His rejection of conventional life and search
Joe Valdez
Dec 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction-general
The best novel I've read since joining Goodreads might be The Razor's Edge, the 20th century bestseller by prolific British playwright and author W. Somerset Maugham. Published in the U.S. in 1944. a bit of my euphoria has to do with the book; much of my intoxication has to do with the time in my life which I read this particular book. In 2016, I came into a creative stride, writing first drafts of a short story and a novella and completing the groundwork for the final draft of a novel. I starte ...more
Mar 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classics
Oh, Mr. Maugham, there are moments when I love you so much I could burst. Moments when I wish there were a six star rating, so I could put it into your hands and say "I got that part and it resonated with me." Moments when I want to say, "enough of that, get back to the story", only to find That is the story, That is the heart.

This novel made me wish to live in the post WWI twenties and have endless possibilities open to me. It made me examine the life I have lived and wonder if I couldn't have
Henry Avila
Nov 27, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In 1919 war hero Larry (Laurence) Darrell returns to his hometown of Chicago, wounded twice, the brave aviator, has a deeper injury which changes him considerably. A comrade saved his life but lost his, over France, dying on the cold ground. Isabel Bradley, Larry's faithful fiancee notices the alteration .When his best friend Gay Maturin, gets his millionaire father Henry to offer his pal a good job. Darrell turns it down, he doesn't want to sell bonds, who does ? Still you can make a lot of lov ...more
Steven Godin
Tracing the intimate lives of representative British and American upper class, The Razor's Edge, set in Chicago, largely in Paris, and also India, was one of the first Western novels to explore non-Western solutions to society’s ills. Larry Darrell maybe seen as the protagonist, but Maugham, who is himself a character in the book, only focuses on Larry occasionally and provides little insight to this man, who, early on, declares he simply wants to loaf until it becomes clear to him what he wants ...more
Riku Sayuj
Aug 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This has to be the most endearing and accessible of Maugham's books. With the right smattering of philosophy and literary techniques to keep one challenged too.

It has been one of the defining books in my life.
Susan's Reviews
Apr 01, 2021 rated it it was amazing
A Timeless, stirring drama, scaling the heights of ecstasy to the dregs of utter despair.

"The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over; thus the wise say the path to Salvation is hard." (Paraphrased from the Katha Upanishad)

Larry Darrell is a likable fellow, engaged to young socialite, Isabel Bradley. Larry goes off to war, but returns a changed man. He breaks his engagement to Isabel and leaves his former life behind, and sets off on a series of spiritual quests. (My teen self fell in lo
It took me a long time to read this book, this beautiful book, this excellent book. I took time because every sentence deserves to would read carefully. It is indeed serving by subtle prose, sought after in its simplicity.
The stories are complete. They demonstrate how each life carries a greater or lesser share of tragedy and ridicule; happiness cannot be an exact science. However, it is happy that each has its definition: it can hide in futility like the Absolute. They also allow you to positio
In Asian countries, the custom of “home leaving” is not as common as it used to be, but it is ingrained in the culture deeply enough that it’s not yet considered weird. Home-leaving essentially means literally leaving your home, but also your secular life, in order to go on a spiritual journey, maybe even go live in a monastery and take vows and be ordained. There is no equivalency to this custom in Western civilization: usually, people who leave everything behind to go look for the meaning of l ...more
Pramod Nair
Mar 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Its a toss-up when you decide to leave the beaten track. Many are called, few are chosen.

A classic which is really worth reading. The author narrates the tale of a man who is in search of the true meanings of life by turning down opportunities and taking up a "road less taken" lifestyle.

In The Razor’s Edge Maugham introduces the reader with Larry Darrel, an American pilot who is in shock after his experiences during the World War I. After returning from war, he was so changed with his perspe

"One of Maugham's three major novels ..." TIME. That's high praise coming from TIME magazine. This MUST be good.

I’m sure some of you are familiar with a little American television drama series that aired on HBO from 2002-2008 called The Wire. I was way late to the party, but over the past 6 months or so, I’ve managed to watch all 5 glorious seasons back to back to back. Well, glorious to a point. But what the hell happened in season 5? I kept waiting for it to get good, kept waiting for somethin
Richard Derus
Dec 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
Rating: 4.25* of five

The Publisher Says: Intimate acquaintances but less than friends, they meet and part in postwar London and Paris: Elliot, the arch-snob but also the kindest of men; Isabel, considered to be entertaining, gracious, and tactful; Gray, the quintessence of the Regular Guy; Suzanne, shrewd, roving, and friendly; Sophie, lost, wanton, with a vicious attractiveness about her; and finally Larry, so hard and so trustful, lost in the world's confusion. Their story, one of Somerset Mau
Mar 04, 2008 rated it liked it
I didn't love it as much as I expected. The premise that Eastern philosophy has something to offer us in the West just isn't as novel as when this book was originally published. Maugham's description of upper crust society in Paris is bitchy and wonderfully astute at times. But, like most authors, he found it easier to describe the sinners than the saints. Larry Darrell, the saint of this book, just doesn't seem human or interesting. He and his quest for enlightenment and/or belief in God are on ...more
I am considering starting a project to find out why some books are infinitely better at curing a reader's block than others.

This would be my first field study. I picked it up with the tired feeling of not being able to concentrate, and before I knew what had happened, I was completely immersed in the strange lives of upper class Chicago people - charmingly interacting with a fictional Maugham in all kinds of settings.

Maybe the trick is that these people lose the direction of their lives over an
Jan 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: libri-classici
Self-sacrifice, a most "overwhelming" human "passion."

This novel of Larry Darrell's spiritual journey struck me hard with Maugham's valuable instruction on how self-sacrifice to "save" another is greater than any other human passion. The sobering story begins with Darrell returning immensely affected by WW I and yearning for something more substantial than a return to material success in Chicago. His yen leads him to Europe then to Asia, including a 5-year sabbatical in India studying and medit
Steven Kent
Jul 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I love this book. I absolutely adore it.

Larry has returned from World War I and refuses to engage in life. Isabel, his finance, is a member of Chicago high society who finds Larry's lack of interest in life troubling.

Grey, Larry's good friend and a successful stock broker, is loyal to Larry despite his secret love for Isabel.

Sound like a soap opera? It should. Told from the first person by Maugham himself, who runs into Larry every few years over a twenty-year period, this is the story of one ma
Jul 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sky-cake
Back in the dark days of the mid-’80s, I read somewhere that Bill Murray was going to be in a movie called The Razor’s Edge, and that it was based on a book. Since this was long before the days where you could check IMDB to see what the movie was going to be about, I figured the book had to be hilarious since Murray was starring in it. So I found the book at the library and started reading. I was pretty shocked to find that it was a serious story about a guy who goes looking for the meaning of l ...more
Matthew Ted
110th book of 2021.

Our guests the other day were some of our English family friends who have lived in France for the last 20 or so years (I’ve written about their home in Aston in my mostly non-review of Lolita here). Naturally, we sat around eating a lot of food (lentil shepherd’s pie, with equal number vegetarians to not) and drinking good drink (lager, Limoncello, Bailey’s, Norwegian potato spirits). The adults went to bed and I was left with B., the daughter (a year younger than me) and her
Nov 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Chatty, erudite, engrossing and thoroughly entertaining.

W. Somerset Maugham’s 1944 publication, called by many his most ambitious work, centers around a group of friends from Chicago whose lives are chronicled by the narrator over a period of more than twenty years from before the first World War, though the Great Depression and after World War II.

The most stimulating character is Larry Darrell, whose journey towards enlightenment is almost Hessian in its eloquence and single-mindedness. Maugham
Alice Poon
Jul 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classics

This is a perspicacious study of characters whose fates are indubitably shaped by their respective aspirations, natural tendencies and outlook on life. Maugham doubles as the narrator and as one of the cast (a writer), and through his narration, readers are engaged with the intertwining stories of the various characters, who move between post-WWI Europe, America and India.

Isabel and Larry, two young American lovers who have known each other from childhood, discover the unbridgeable gulf between
Jan 16, 2022 rated it it was amazing
“'What’s the good of knowledge if you’re not going to do anything with it?’
‘Perhaps he is. Perhaps it will be sufficient satisfaction merely to know, as it’s a sufficient satisfaction to an artist to produce a work of art.’”

This book. It’s hard to think what to say about it. I find myself not wanting to say much.

It begins in 1919, and takes us through to World War II, following a small group of upper-class characters from a dinner party in Chicago to Europe and beyond. We watch some come of age
The way Maugham crafts this is to be applauded; it reads in just the way it should.

Only a sentence or two in, I was instantly compelled to read more. Maugham is a character in the story, he even retains his own name. That he is an author, that he studied medicine, that he has travelled is spoken of and is clearly evident by the very details woven into the tale. He speaks of how this is a novel, but then we are told it isn’t. It is about a person he knew. He tells us that what he doesn’t know ab
Lori  Keeton
Thinking about what to say about The Razor’s Edge isn’t an easy task. I don’t really know how to express this book’s message in a well-thought out review as so many already have. This is a book for thinkers and maybe I’m not quite there yet on that aspect. However, I absolutely loved Maugham’s writing style because it was just so easy and flawless. Maugham inserts himself into the narrative which seems to work quite well as being the story teller and conduit of his message and also a character i ...more
Feb 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, 2015, europe, 2017
What a keen observer of people Maugham is! This book is just a wonderful delight, amusing & serious at the same time, filled with Maugham's warm, wonderful observations of people.

It's like visiting a bunch of old friends various times throughout the years, telling stories, catching up on gossip, pondering the meaning of life, etc.... Maugham writes beautifully. All the characters are great -- true people with many virtues, but flaws too; the flaws don't detract, though, just make them real. (El
Elyse Walters
Feb 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
I liked it! As for writing a review ---there are a TON of EXCELLENT reveiws already written ---
[which I've enjoyed very much myself....as many of them expanded my own understanding -and views of this book]....

One little thing which 'bugged' me personally ----lol ---is that 'LEGS' on woman seemed to be a first physical focus (fat -or thin -short or tall) ---

As a female ---I was a little 'tired' of the LEG talk....

Larry spent 2 years in an Ashram ----(I spent a week and had enough) ---
A VERY close
Mar 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literature
I really enjoy Maugham’s writing. No one writes a snob quite like Maugham does. He generally creates interesting characters – characters that stay with me. Now, I’m hopeless with names and I couldn’t be bothered looking them up, but that woman he falls in love with in Of Human Bondage and the other woman who is lucky to get away from him in the same book are remarkable characters. Characters that leap off the page in their own way.

This book is supposed to be based on real life – in fact, it clai
Ramón S.
Apr 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
I disagree with the ideas described in the book but is incredibly well written. I have to admit it because of that I didn’t stop reading until the end
Jan 12, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2022
The story of Larry Durrell is told to the author, by Larry himself, and friends. Maugham is the narrator and it’s an unusual way to write the book but it worked for me. I found it very engaging. In some ways I was reminded of Gatsby. Many characters are just materialistic, and superficial. (I really didn’t like Isabel, she got more and more on my nerves as the book went on!) After being a pilot in the First World War, Larry returns home but is no longer interested in getting a job and settling d ...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 almost l

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