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The Razor's Edge

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  32,996 ratings  ·  2,599 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)
Eric Maxfield I admit, I found myself a little underwhelmed after reading it, but I remember thinking about elements of the story for a week or two after. In…moreI admit, I found myself a little underwhelmed after reading it, but I remember thinking about elements of the story for a week or two after. In retrospect, the open-ended ending that at first put me off was what later made it great.

Its not super long so you might as well read it yourself and be the judge.(less)

Community Reviews

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4.19  · 
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 ·  32,996 ratings  ·  2,599 reviews


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Emily May
Aug 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, 2019
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 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 minor
...more
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
Ahmad Sharabiani
570. 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 for meaningful experienc
...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
...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.
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
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
...more
Jenn(ifer)

"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
...more
Maryll
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
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
...more
Perry
Jan 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: libri-classici
Self-sacrifice, the most "overwhelming" of human "passions."

From film version, 1984
the path to Salvation is as difficult to pass over as the "sharp edge of a razor."


This novel of Larry Darrell's spiritual journey struck me hardest with Maugham's valuable instruction on how self-sacrifice to "save" another is greater than any other human passion. The powerful, sobering story begins with Darrell returning immensely affected by WW I and yearning for much more substantial than a return to material
...more
Kemper
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
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
...more
Lyn
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
...more
Chrissie
Feb 28, 2018 rated it liked it
Recommended to Chrissie by: Inder
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
...more
Sara
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
...more
Stacia
Feb 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015, europe, favorites, 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.
...more
Wealhtheow
Jun 27, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
When I first read this, I was too overwhelmed to try to sum up my feelings about it with just a bit of text. (Plus, I wasn't on Goodreads at the time.) There is still no earthly way that I can convey how fantastic this book is, but I did want to mention what still strikes me years later.

In the hands of most authors, this book would focus on Larry, the young man who abandons a life of privilege to seek enlightenment and meaning after terrible experiences in the Great War. His fiancee, who breaks
...more
Ben
Jan 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing
So let me start with a few of the reasons why I shouldn't have liked this book.
-I usually prefer contemporary fiction.
-The Americans are, for the most part, sad, sad characters. Eliot is obsessed with society and culture to the detriment of love and emotion. Isabel wouldn't marry Larry because he would never be rich, and she was disappointed when she inherited some Picassos and Matisses because they wouldn't match her modern decor. Gray was somewhat single minded about work.
-The level of detail
...more
·Karen·
Nov 29, 2009 rated it liked it
Maugham appears as the narrator in this story of Larry Darrel, a young American who lied about his age to be able to become an airman in the first World War. After a traumatic experience there he no longer wishes to satisfy the expectations of his friends and join his schoolmate Gray's father's brokerage company, or indeed any other reasonable form of earning a living. He wishes to 'loaf'. Isabel, his shallow, mercenary fiancee gives him two years in Paris to get this strange idea out of his sys ...more
A Rye
Apr 19, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Those who used to identify with Holden Caulfield, but are growing up.
Shelves: philosophy
Boring for most, enlightening for some, and absolutely beautiful to very few, this book describes the journey of a man disillusioned with the materialistic predilections of society.
After some rather traumatic experiences as a fighter pilot in WW I, American Larry Darrell relocates to France, where he dedicates himself to a life of learning and seeking. A pilgrimage to India results in a spiritual revelation for Darrell, and it is at this point that his entire world begins to shift.
Stylisticall
...more
Trevor
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
...more
Jamie
Oct 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: the-classics
Maugham, you son of a bitch.

“You know, at one time I made quite a little reputation for myself as a humorist by the simple process of telling the truth. It came as such a surprise to most people that they thought I was being funny.”

There are the first thirty pages of a Somerset Maugham book, and then there are the next 200, or 300, or 400 pages that turn it on its head. It’s a game now for me, to form as fast and as sure an opinion of the people he puts in those first thirty pages so the rest of
...more
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
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
...more
Brad Lyerla
Oct 06, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My youngest daughter came home from college the other day with this book under her arm. I grabbed it and expected it to be great.

It almost met my expectations. Somerset Maugham's theme is to explore how the things we want most shape our lives. He sums it up in the final paragraph. Elliot valued social standing above all else. Isabel, a rich husband. Gray, to be one of the guys in business. Suzanne, security. Sophie, death. Larry, spiritual happiness.

One surprise to me is that none of Somerset
...more
Sketchbook
Mar 23, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
MOM's persuasive hero Larry Darrell is on a "search for
Something" like all sensitif lads, though he doesnt
know what the "Something" is. Arriving in SoCal from
India, MOM spent time w Isherwood & Huxley, both of whom realized that Los Angeles was making them look for Something.

Growing up there - without a Swami - I felt the same
way. Age 14, this novel (with 100s of GR reviews that
would startle MOM) inspired the necessary Search for
me, though I didnt realize then I'd find all answers at
the Ca
...more
J.K. Grice
Oct 03, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
This was a rare case where I enjoyed the film much more than the book. The novel was worth reading, but Bill Murray's performance as Larry Darrell made THE RAZOR'S EDGE one of my favorite films of all time. The movie story is also different from the book.
Dave
Sep 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
The only thing that keeps this book from being a 5-star, is that suffering is on the periphery of the narrative. As is, I'd give it 4.5, solidly.

I can imagine some people being bored to bits with this book. Nothing really happens in it. I think this is one of those cases where the journey is the destination. Maugham's narrative is absolutely wonderful and fulfilling, his dialogue natural, and his characters alive. For once, I regret giving up the farm life and having the chance to thoroughly re
...more
Gearóid
Jan 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely loved this book.
The writing is so beautiful and feels so easy to read.
As soon as i start reading a Somerset Maugham book i am instantly
absorbed in the story each time.
I particularly liked The Razor's Edge.I knew nothing about it before
i started reading and as i was reading i didnt know what direction it
was going in but it really was terrific.
I liked the whole vibe of sitting around Paris or the Riviera eating
and drinking outside and having philosophical discussions.
Of course most of t
...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
...more
“You're beginning to dislike me, aren't you? Well, dislike me. It doesn't make any difference to me now.” 269 likes
“Nothing in the world is permanent, and we’re foolish when we ask anything to last, but surely we’re still more foolish not to take delight in it while we have it. If change is of the essence of existence one would have thought it only sensible to make it the premise of our philosophy.” 193 likes
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