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The Razor's Edge by W. Somerset Maugham

The Razor's Edge (original 1944; edition 2003)

by W. Somerset Maugham

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4,472781,094 (4.1)225
Title:The Razor's Edge
Authors:W. Somerset Maugham
Info:Vintage (2003), Paperback, 320 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Fiction, British, Read, 2003

Work details

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

  1. 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.
  2. 10
    On a Chinese Screen by W. Somerset Maugham (John_Vaughan)
  3. 00
    Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius by Ray Monk (JuliaMaria)
  4. 00
    The Fires of Autumn by Irène Némirovsky (librorumamans)
    librorumamans: Both Némirovsky and Maugham look at the effects of World War I on individuals and on social values. Both are fine novels.
  5. 00
    Narcissus and Goldmund by Hermann Hesse (CGlanovsky)
    CGlanovsky: A young man on a journey, both literally and spiritually. Philosophical.
  6. 00
    Collected Short Stories, Vol. 2 by W. Somerset Maugham (John_Vaughan)

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» See also 225 mentions

English (71)  Italian (3)  French (1)  Hebrew (1)  Dutch (1)  Swedish (1)  All (78)
Showing 1-5 of 71 (next | show all)
A wonderful novel about one man's attempt to escape the spiritual constraints of materialism. I read this partly during a short stay in the hospital, the circumstances and book combining to make me think seriously about what kinds of things I value in life. ( )
  jalbacutler | Jan 10, 2017 |
Read one book this summer 2015
  jothebookgirl | Jan 3, 2017 |
4.5 stars rounded up to 5. I love Maugham's writing style- it's so engaging. Primarily character studies, this book is the stories of American expatriates in Europe, primarily Paris. Each is searching for meaning in their own way, and Maugham keeps the reader interested clear through. ( )
1 vote tstan | Sep 4, 2016 |
It was a real pleasure to reread this book after many years. I love Maugham's style and strength with characters. All the main players in this story are flawed in some way. Even the saintly Larry causes a lot of pain as he rejects the world in his quest for spiritual meaning. The self-indulgence of the moneyed classes is quite startling. I suppose it is still like this in privileged circles but somehow, I think the servants and parties and lavish extravagance must have been tempered. Maugham provides remarkable contrasts between the haves and have-nots, not always to the former's advantage. A great book. Now I want to read and reread more from the author. ( )
1 vote rosiezbanks | May 23, 2016 |
Wounded and traumatized by the death of a comrade in the War, Larry returns to Lake Forest, Illinois and his fiancée, Isabel, only to announce that he does not plan to work and instead will "loaf" on his small inheritance. He wants to delay their marriage and refuses to take up a job as a stockbroker offered to him by the father of his friend Gray, Henry Maturin. Meanwhile, Larry’s childhood friend, Sophie, settles into a happy marriage, only later tragically losing her husband and baby in a car accident.

Larry moves to Paris and immerses himself in study and bohemian life. After two years of this "loafing", Isabel visits and Larry asks her to join his life of wandering and searching, living in Paris and traveling with little money. She cannot accept his vision of life and breaks their engagement to go back to Chicago. There she marries the millionaire Gray, who provides her a rich family life. Meanwhile, Larry begins a sojourn through Europe taking a job at a coal mine in Lens, France where he befriends a former Polish army officer named Kosti. Kosti encourages Larry to look toward things spiritual for his answers rather than in books. Larry and Kosti leave the coal mine and travel together for a time then part ways. Larry then meets a Benedictine monk named Father Ensheim in Bonn, Germany while Father Ensheim is on leave from his monastery doing academic research. Father Ensheim, having certain insights other than strictly western spiritual influences, suggests Larry widen his spiritual perimeters and go to India in search of answers.

Larry has significant spiritual adventures in India and comes back to the City of Light. What he actually found in India and what he finally concluded are held back from the reader for a considerable time until, in a scene late in the book, Maugham discusses India and spirituality with Larry in a café long into the evening.

The 1929 Stock Market crash has ruined Gray, and he and Isabel are invited to live in her Uncle Elliott’s grand Parisian house. Gray is often incapacitated with agonizing migraines due to a general nervous collapse. Larry is able to help him using an Indian form of hypnotic suggestion. Sophie has also drifted to the French capital, where her friends find her reduced to alcohol, opium, and promiscuity — empty and dangerous liaisons that seem to help her to bury her pain. Larry first sets out to save her and then decides to marry her, something that won’t be tolerated by Isabel, who is still in love with him.

Isabel invites Sophie out on the pretext of shopping for a wedding dress. She arranges to leave Sophie alone with a bottle of Żubrówka, and Sophie, tempted, falls off the wagon, and disappears from Paris. At this point Maugham the narrator comes back on the scene to tell what happens and to play amateur detective. He runs into Sophie in Toulon, where he finds her on the arm of a sailor who is "dumb but beautiful". Sophie is past redemption and admits to Maugham that she’s not worthy of Larry. "When it came to the point, I couldn’t see myself being Mary Magdalen to his Jesus Christ." Maugham learns later that Sophie has been murdered, her throat cut.

Meanwhile in Antibes, Elliott Templeton, who has compulsively throughout his life sought out aristocratic society, is on his deathbed. None of his titled friends come to see him but he ignores his loss. "I have always moved in the best society in Europe, and I have no doubt that I shall move in the best society in heaven."

Isabel inherits his fortune, but genuinely grieves for her uncle. Maugham confronts her about Sophie, having figured out Isabel’s role in Sophie’s downfall. Isabel’s only punishment will be that she will never get Larry, who has decided to return to America and live as a common working man. He is uninterested in the rich and glamorous world that Isabel will move in. Maugham ends his narrative by suggesting that all the characters got what they wanted in the end: "Elliott social eminence; Isabel an assured position; ... Sophie death; and Larry happiness".

  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (19 possible)

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

~ Katha-Upanishad
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.
A mother only does her children harm if she makes them the only concern of her life.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:34 -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 6 descriptions

Legacy Library: W. Somerset Maugham

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