The Razor's Edge

The Razor's Edge

Book - 1944
Average Rating:
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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 in which Maugham himself plays a considerable part as he wanders in and out of the story, to observe his characters struggling with their fates.
Publisher: London : Penguin, c1944
ISBN: 9780099284864
0099284863
9780140018608
0140018603
9780749303501
0749303506
9781400034208
Branch Call Number: MAUGHAM
Characteristics: 313 p

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s
stewstealth
Jul 21, 2017

An unconventionally structured book with wonderful character development, great prose and good pace. We all want different things in life and this theme is well captured in this novel. Well worth reading.

i
imamtucker
Jun 12, 2016

This book changed my life. A beautiful introspection on life, love and relationships.

i
iliveatthelibrary
Jan 05, 2016

Took me a couple of tries, but I loved this book. The young man in the story is a wanderer and I identified very much with him. Of course the writing is lucid and fluid and penetrating.

l
lukasevansherman
Feb 13, 2015

"The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over; thus the wise say the path to Salvation is hard."-Katha-Upanishad
Arguably Somerset Maugham's most popular and enduring book, "The Razor's Edge" (1944), like much of his work, has not aged well. While he's still in print, his reputation seems to have diminished. He was one of the last of that generation of British writers (Coward, Fleming, Amis) for whom English snobbery was an inheritance. Oddly, his protagonist, Larry Darrell (meant to recall author Lawrence Durrell) is an American who disillusioned by the war and society, goes on a spiritual quest in the East. The novel combines the adrift in Europe theme of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and other Lost Generation writers with what I call the b.s. enlightenment story, which involves some kind of vague spiritual (not religious)/find yourself journey and can be found in "Siddhartha," "Into the Wild," and pretty much everything by Jack Kerouac. As a 21st century American reader, Darrell comes across as insufferable as only the well to do (he has a "private income") can afford to drop out and the other characters, which include a generous snob (really), a wild girl (who gets what's coming to her), and the droll narrator, don't come off as much better. At least it reads quickly. Filmed twice, once with Tyrone Power and once with Bill Murray. I'd advise reading whilst listening to the AC/DC album of the same name.

j
JimLoter
Jan 04, 2014

Fantastic novel with Maugham inserting himself as the seemingly-neutral narrator who recounts his experiences with the wealthy Chicago-based Bradley family in the years following WWI.

At the start, young Isabel Bradley is engaged to Larry Darnell, whose experience in the war has inspired him to pursue an intellectual and spiritual quest for self-enlightenment. He describes his goal as "to loaf." Isabel finds this decision frustrating and counter to her dreams and desires for Larry to make the most of the booming post-war economy and provide her with a comfortable life. After they separate, Larry ventures off and becomes increasingly enigmatic while Isabel settles down with his best friend, Gray, who follows a traditional path into investment banking.

The novel could have easily focused on Larry's path to enlightenment and drifted into a treatise on Eastern mysticism or a critique of Western decadence. Instead, Larry appears only intermittently and Maugham focuses mostly on the effect that his quest for spirituality has on his old friends. Larry drifts in and out of the Bradleys' lives throughout the following two decades. They are all affected by the world events unfolding around them (not the least of which is the stock market crash) and their own aging processes, while Larry continues his (trust-fund sponsored) quest to find wisdom.

My one complaint, perhaps, is that Larry is grossly upstaged by the supporting characters - the conniving and materialistic Isabel, her outrageously snobbish (but exceedingly generous) uncle Elliot (one of the most compelling and entertaining characters I've ever encountered), and even Maugham himself who, as the novel progresses, reveals himself to be less of a neutral observer in the affairs and more of a shadow protagonist.

I appreciated that Larry's seeming enlightenment was not treated uncritically - it seemed to me that Maugham remained appropriately skeptical about Larry's asceticism and embracing of Eastern mysticism. But in the end, I found myself not really caring about Larry so much, which was maybe the point.

d
dtaylz
Mar 18, 2013

Not Maugham's best book but the one that changed my life, perhaps because I read it in 1967 when I was 19 and ready to have my worldview challenged.

SkycycleX2 Sep 25, 2012

I love this book. It's one of the few books I've read more than once and will read again. It's so well-written and is an unconventional story about an unconventional hero. It's the story of Larry Darrell's spiritual odyssey in search of answers to the "big questions." But Maugham doesn't try to provide answers or to proselitize. As Larry says, there are more answers than questions but that doesn't keep him from looking for his own answers. It's a very spiritual story in a true sense. I highly recommend it.

TheFog Sep 09, 2012

This is an excellent overview of this book. The Razor''s Edge is an exciting discovery for us the reader too.

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