Mariel's Reviews > Of Human Bondage

Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham
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Oct 18, 2010

really liked it
Recommended to Mariel by: Trevor
Recommended for: Mildrewed Philistines

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 reading Of Human Bondage after getting dumped by my friend of many years (I'm "too dark"). All things considering, a stupid book choice on my part, if I didn't want to be reminded of these exact type of conversations. Of Human Bondage is a before the dust settles life part story of Phillip. I'd say it is not much a life story as a whole lot of those conversations that look big and mean a lot of things, and at the same time sound big to beat you down. Like when Phillip wonders if thinking ever helped anyone out when they needed it? Backstory! Subtext! Okay, here's some text: My friend told me I waste my life reading books. Fiction is pointless. Those conversations might have SOME point. They aren't the whole point. That gets in the way of living, when those ideas beat down. I don't want to be beaten down. God, I really don't. What was it that M. Ward said about if life is short then why are the nights so long?

Paragraph break. My eyes would glaze over that much of me babbling. Phillip comes to the realization that life has no meaning. Everyone dies. If you can't be great, why bother? Okay, so stories are not real. But what the hell is? Is love real? Imagined, built up, analyzed interactions. Memories don't match. Life then gets rewritten in that hindsight. I comfort myself that nothing I do matters. It's how I can bully myself to carry on despite my intense stupidity. I don't understand much and sometimes this is really painful. (I say this a lot because it is my recurring nightmare.) So what? That's not gonna change. Stories are where it's surprise and multi sided relationships all in one's own brain. The best part? A surprising brain of your own. Of Human Bondage makes me feel my "But that's all wrong!" and crying out in frustration and misunderstanding when confronted with those beat down conversations. That it isn't forever is how I can carry on. What it means to me, and it doesn't matter if I can give back anything worth as much... Yeah, stories.

To be honest? I was a little lost when the ideals were really entitlement. Wrong foot...

I hated Phillip sometimes. I related to Phillip too much sometimes too. He's a quitter like me. His life's work was all along his introspection. His pitying and self satisfied (mostly in pity) inner life. How could he have missed that he only wanted Mildred because she had rejected him? C'mon, Phillip, even I would have seen that. The side of Phillip that thinks more about how good he could look making love instead of just making love... Frustrating, indeed.

Mildred is too pathetic for me to hate. She's just drifting between thoughtless passions. I'd hate her if I had it in me to hate people who picked on me in junior high. I'm needing more than that these days... Mildred is the void that is no stories. Yet she remembers everything about her dreams... Pretty much the only interesting thing about her. It isn't like he didn't KNOW that. She's not even an adult. How could one ever have a relationship with her? Or expect to?

Phillip's ideal was someone beautiful. (Sorry to anyone who hasn't read Lanark! [If you haven't, it's really good.] This relationship made me feel exactly like that. So what? It is your own damned fault.) I'm not inclined to feel that bad for a guy who doesn't try to take a bit more than that looks thing. (Sally reminded me of Mildred with the "If you like" and passiveness, anyway. If she despised Phillip she'd be better off with him. That creeps me out.) Take more! If you can't know how anyone else feels anyway, if you're going to be trapped in your own head... Make that space richer?

Miss Price killed me. Starvation suicide... Phillip's disgust towards her, his impatience with her affection... I mean, he's the same to these other women like Miss Price and Norah that Mildred was to him. Why his Mildred is a bitch talk and poor me didn't get what I deserved? What the hell is deserved?

Sometimes I worry that I'm like a sociopath who cannot fake human emotions when it comes to romance and religion. I just couldn't feel sorry for Phillip when it came to his "ideals" (coughs entitlement coughs) of perfect beauty. (By that token, he didn't "deserve" love because of his club foot.) It isn't about who deserves what. You take what the hell you can get if you can, I say. I don't know what it is like to lose that because I never had it. Entitlement. I don't want to stop caring.

Sad sigh. I felt a lot of things from this book... I just wish they were the sustaining kind that I'd drink from in my camel's hunch back huddled up for sanctuary. I said this already... It's that "But you're wrong! You HAVE to be wrong!" conversation interlude outside of life that almost sounds like it is getting somewhere and probably really isn't. I know what I can't live without...

I marked off so many passages for future reference. I will probably look them over in the future when I miss having someone to piss me off with being wrong that my life in my head from books is meaningless. Life outside too. There were many jumping off points for inspiration. I'm going to have frames of reference. I guess that's what Phillip had from his own life of introspection. He's too much like me and I don't like me.

My favorite part of Of Human Bondage is when young Phillip gets into the picture books. He stares and imagines and goes to places. I can get that retreat. It was the sensitive like feeling attuned instead of his quick to offense that I relate to entirely too much (on my worst days). Phillip's sweet moments when he feels sensitive. Maybe he likes himself for being sensitive. I don't care about that. I like looking beyond that shitty layers and can feel embarrassed, pained... He's at best when no one wants anything from him. Knowing what to do is really hard. Phillip would be a really good friend to have if he were in a book... And not the parts that were me.

P.s. Damn. Why'd I have to write a review of this before bed time? I'm upset.
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Reading Progress

October 18, 2010 – Shelved
March 15, 2011 – Started Reading
March 17, 2011 –
0.0% "Entitlement = ideals, apparently."
March 18, 2011 –
0.0% "Stop reminding me of me, Phillip!"
March 21, 2011 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-25 of 25) (25 new)

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message 1: by Stephen (new) - added it

Stephen Wow, Mariel. Well done.


Mariel Thanks, Stephen. This book has been driving me bonkers (in good ways too).


message 3: by Stephen (new) - added it

Stephen Mariel wrote: "Thanks, Stephen. This book has been driving me bonkers (in good ways too)."

I have been wanting to tackle it for a while. Your review makes me want to finally do it.


Mariel If you do we can talk about it. I'd like that a lot. I have so many notes written.


message 5: by Stephen (new) - added it

Stephen Mariel wrote: "If you do we can talk about it. I'd like that a lot. I have so many notes written."

That sounds great!!


Mariel I've started bothering people about this book in their reviews.


message 7: by Stephen (new) - added it

Stephen Mariel wrote: "I've started bothering people about this book in their reviews."

With as much as many of us read, it is the books that move us like this one has moved you that we are always hoping to find. It is great when we find them even when it is an "unsettling" experience.


Mariel I need books that make me think about what is important to me. If I place too much importance on living through stories. If I can't connect past what I want to see (like Phillip). I related to him so much when he feels empathy for the women in his life, girlfriends and his aunt, when he's from a removed position. His school mates and Mildred he feels rejected by he stops being himself and wants to win. Damn. It's painful to see this outside view.


I did wish while reading it that it felt less like discussion of these things and more like living it. Now I want to discuss it? I'm nuts.

Wait you haven't read it yet! Don't read this stuff. It's spoilers.


message 9: by K.D. (new) - added it

K.D. Absolutely Oh I have to read this soon. Thanks for your nice review, Marihell.


message 10: by Ian (new)

Ian "Marvin" Graye Mariel wrote: "My friend told me I waste my life reading books. Fiction is pointless."

Mariel, that's a bullshit thing for anyone to say to you.
You only have to read one, just one, of your reviews to realise how much you put into life and how much you get out of life and how much you affect other people's lives.
Fiction is a relationship that enhances you and all of your relationships, and if someone can't appreciate that, then it's their bad luck. Move on.
We are privileged to know someone with a sensibility like yours.
And don't tell me you're just like everybody else on Goodreads and you're not special, I don't believe you.
You need to quote Lou Reed to your friend: "My week beats your year."


Stephanie *Very Stable Genius* It's been moved up my list as well. Great review.


Jenn(ifer) Fantastic review!


Jenn(ifer) I felt similarly when reading this, that I related too well to Phillip sometimes. Then again, he is one of my favorite literary characters of all time. I embrace my flaws ;)


message 14: by Julie (new)

Julie Tootill Nothing makes me think like good fiction and this is way up there.


message 15: by Julie (new)

Julie Tootill ps - enjoyed your review


message 16: by Dolors (new) - added it

Dolors brilliant review! It actually eased my mind that I have had that book glaring at me on my shelves for a couple of years now! ;-)


Mariel Mikki it is great to see you on gr again!
These days I'm afraid of the bigger books too. Or rather ones that read like big books.


message 18: by Mikki (new)

Mikki "If you can't be great, why bother?"

Wow, what a thought to tackle. It should have been the Mean Girls' mantra.

Thanks for this Mariel, you've convinced me to quit shying away from this (I'm really a 350pg and under kinda girl). Perhaps a leisurely Summer read is the way to go.


message 19: by Mikki (new)

Mikki Thanks Mariel. I was battling some health issues but I'm eager to get back to GR and catching up on all I missed (ahem..your reviews).


Mariel I've had problems myself (I wasn't on gr for a whole month not too long ago). I missed you and I debated asking if you were okay but then thought i'd be weird for doing that (people have real lives and all).


message 21: by Mikki (new)

Mikki Real lives that include books! I can't believe that your friend told you reading was a waste. I wasn't able to focus on a book for the last five or so months and was frustrated beyond belief. A severe case of osteomyelitis set me back and required surgery along with a two month hospital stay. Once discharged it took another month and a half to recuperate though I'm feeling 80% back to normal now. But thank you, it feels nice to be missed.

Are you feeling back to self?


Mariel I am glad you are better! Books would definitely be needed! I've had hospital stays (never that long) and they did save my life.

Yeah, I'm the Mariel you know all right. :)


message 23: by Mikki (new)

Mikki Mariel wrote: "Yeah, I'm the Mariel you know all right. :)"

Good, Chica, I wouldn't have it any other way!


message 24: by Dianne (new) - added it

Dianne Oliver I might reconsider any friend who said reading fiction was a waste of time. Just sayin


Mariel I can't disagree with you. Dianne.


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