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The Razor's Edge by W. Somerset Maugham
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The Razor's Edge (original 1944; edition 2003)

by W. Somerset Maugham

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4,066611,249 (4.12)190
Member:Marensr
Title:The Razor's Edge
Authors:W. Somerset Maugham
Info:Vintage (2003), Paperback, 320 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:Fiction, British, Read, 2003

Work details

The Razor's Edge by W. Somerset Maugham (1944)

  1. 10
    On a Chinese Screen by W. Somerset Maugham (John_Vaughan)
  2. 10
    Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham (anabela_aguiar)
    anabela_aguiar: Um dos melhores livros sobre a chegada da idade adulta e todos os factores que influenciam a nossa actuação nesta sociedade.
  3. 00
    Narcissus and Goldmund by Hermann Hesse (CGlanovsky)
    CGlanovsky: A young man on a journey, both literally and spiritually. Philosophical.
  4. 00
    Collected Short Stories, volume 2 by W. Somerset Maugham (John_Vaughan)
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» See also 190 mentions

English (58)  French (1)  Hebrew (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (61)
Showing 1-5 of 58 (next | show all)
Is there a trope in Eastern literature where an unhappy young man journeys to the West and learns things from a priest, or monk, or some such person, how to be at peace with life? And maybe some mystic powers that impress everyone back home in the bargain? Just curious. ( )
  BayardUS | Dec 10, 2014 |
While in his opening Maugham states this book isn’t fiction and that all the direct speech is simply as true a recreation he can make of the conversations that happened, it seems to me that he probably only based his story on people and events he knew about and that he shaped the characters and plot to suit his aim of creating an interesting novel.

I think he’s managed this quite well and of course he was hugely successful in his life-time. I wonder, though, what so many of his contemporary readers got out of this novel about very wealthy people for whom life revolved around social occasions. Obviously Larry is the exception and deliberate contrast here but it does seem to me that Maugham, including himself as a character in this book, was exposing himself as a snob as clearly as Maugham portrays Elliott as one. The clubs, the hotels, the lunches, his sojourns here and there, his tailor – these may all have been comparatively normal for the wealthy between the wars but definitely not common and not the preserve of his readers – so perhaps they just liked reading about the lifestyles of the wealthy. Sentences like ‘American women expect to find in their husbands a perfection that English women only hope to find in their butlers’ no doubt seemed witty to Maugham but strikes a different note to me today just as “I knew a hotel where one ate tolerably’ seems so judgemental as if Maugham couldn’t contemplate anything outside upper class expectations.

I guess Maugham is really as major a character in this book, for the reader today anyway, as any of the others. He comes across as paternalistic, tolerant and having insight when compared to others but what interested me most, looking back on the novel, are the opinions that emerge in the novel, opinions that would seem to be found today. For example, Elliott suggests affairs outside marriage shouldn’t be taken seriously – just ‘flings’ – while the narrator has the opinion that promiscuity and drinking a lot weren’t moral failures but just bad habits. And he also tells Isabel that self-sacrifice is a scheme of the devil’s – and he suggests this while World War 2 is taking place in the country in which he has set his novel. I’d have thought all these ideas, and especially the last, would have upset quite a few of his readers, but it does seem to me that Maugham’s ability to transcend the trends of his time philosophically is what makes this book resonate today, something that is ironic when we see how clearly he is attached to his ideas of society and what’s acceptable here. Towards the end when Larry expounds what he sees as the short-comings of Christianity and promotes the idea of the transmigration of souls, coming to develop this belief in India, it is convincing in part but, from my point of view, rather stretching my credulity, especially Larry’s trick of being able to make people raise their arms without them willing it. ( )
  evening | Nov 3, 2014 |
Somerset Maugham masterfully dissects and exposes human nature at its best and at its worst. Bill Murray did a wonderful job in his version of this movie, and his version was truer to the novel. I'd highly recommend both the book and the movie. ( )
  vdunn | Apr 30, 2014 |
Amazing.There is one paragraph in this book that stands out in my mind. In it, Maugham retells the story of the temptation of Christ in the desert. In a book full of evocative ideas, keen observations, and explorations into the nature of truth, destiny, and faith this paragraph left me stunned. To date, it is the best stand alone paragraph I have ever read! ( )
  IsotropicJoseph | Apr 28, 2014 |
My opinion of the book fluctuated as I read. The author inserts himself as a character, and sometimes that makes the narrative flow awkward. You end up with passages where he's writing things like (not an actual quote), "I wasn't there so I can only surmise that it went something like this." Overall, though, I once again really enjoyed Maugham's style and the story itself is thought-provoking and entertaining. He creates good characters, and the at times dark material is sprinkled with some healthy doses of humor. After Of Human Bondage and The Razor's Edge, I'm still anxious to read more of Maugham's work. ( )
  tercat | Feb 6, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (20 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
W. Somerset Maughamprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kelk, C.J.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Maddigan, AngelaIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Page, MichaelReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tarner, MargaretEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over;
thus the wise say the path to Salvation is hard.

~ Katha-Upanishad
Dedication
First words
I have never begun a novel with more misgiving. If I call it a novel it is only because I don't know what else to call it.
Quotations
A mother only does her children harm if she makes them the only concern of her life.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140185232, Paperback)

The story of the spiritual odyssey of a young American in search of God.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:46:01 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Leaving wealth and loved ones behind, Larry Darrell journeys to the mountains of India in search of spiritual wisdom.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 7 descriptions

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