Monday, September 20, 2010

The Razor's Edge - Somerset Maugham

My first Maugham. I have been forever planning to read 'Of Human Bondage' and never go down to it. When I saw 'The Razor's Edge' at Mythily's house I instantly borrowed it. Looked like an interesting title and it had an interesting cover.

I found it an easy read which was a huge relief. Quite modern in its outlook, its characters. It is more or less the story of Isabel and Larry who grow up in America, two youngsters that Maugham (he is himself, the narrator) through Elliott, his friend. Now Elliott is someone who loves to play up being the man of the world, keeps good company, goes to painstaking lengths to have, know and keep all that if refined and of high social standing. Isabel is his niece and Larry her friend from childhood who she is bent on marrying. Elliott lives in Paris mostly, Maugham in London and the Isabel and Larry;s in America. So Maugham whisks us all over the continents. And with Larry's penchant for travel we hop into India a bit as well.

It is a story that will hold good at any time because the emotions are timeless. The characters as well. Isabel loves Larry but not his ideas of leading a wandering, exploratory life. She decides to marry a rich broker (with a forgettable name) who is rich when she marries him but goes bust in the stock market crash of 1929. And then she and her husband and children are broke and come to live in Eliott's flat in Paris. Larry has meanwhile worked in coal mines, fruit orchards, met all kinds of people, accumulated money he does not have any need to spend and still seeks God. He meets the couple thanks to Maugham who meets Isabel regularly and they meet a whole bunch of new people, including Ms. Sophie Macdonald who knew them all from America. Now living a degenerate life Sophie, a victim of circumstances, is a drunk, drug addict and sleeps with anyone. Larry wants to marry her and well, Isabel is sure that it will destroy her Larry. Just as she wished, Sophie disappears before the marriage and Larry is left to his wanderings. Elliott dies, Sophie is found murdered, Isabel and husband live comfortably and Larry heads off to America with nothing on his back - just as he wished. And so Maugham concludes, everyone gets what they wanted.

Maugham is easy to read which was the biggest relief. His eye for detail is evident just as hie great wisdom is in the way he brings up discussions and arguments and presents some hard questions to the reader. The characters live and feel exactly what we do so it makes them very real.

No comments: