The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham, 8/10

The Razor’s Edge can be declared as a classic self-identity themed novel. The author, Somerset Maugham, focused mostly on characterization while writing the novel, and throughout the book, his development of his characters help directed the main theme of the story. That reoccurring theme being that humans are constantly trying to find their own meaning to life in a hard, relentless world.

The novel takes place right after World War One, and ends a few years later after the Great Depression. Larry Darrell, the main protagonist of the tale, had an epiphany after fighting as a pilot in World War One. Larry saw his best friend die, and his death changed all of Larry’s beliefs. At this point, Larry is stumbling through life, engaged to a beautiful woman, but was never able to truly appreciate her because he now was a man without a God. After some consideration, Larry decided to move to Paris for a few years to search for himself, postponing his engagement with Isabel. One of Isabel’s uncle lived in Paris, and was a snobby person. He would only notice a person if they were of any importance. If they weren’t important or talented in the fine arts, he would ignore them completely. And yes, he was a very rich man who consistently threw extravagant parties. Well, he wanted to help Larry in the way of the knowledge of the fine arts, but was never able to find Larry in the city. Years later, they all met up, and after a heated argument, Isabel and Larry broke off their engagement. From there, Isabel marries a businessman who suffered tremendously after the Great Depression. Larry eventually found his meaning of life after traveling to India, which was one of his last voyages across the world due to the fact that he was a spiritually peaceful man. He was once again engaged, but this time to an old childhood friend who was using abusive substances before getting engaged to Larry. Once Isabel found out, she broke off their engagement, and Larry’s fiancee died years later because of Isabel’s intervention. Larry then moves to America and becomes a taxi driver, so he can travel all across the United States. In the end, he was a truly blissful man.

Maugham writes the story mostly through previous encounters with the characters, all whom Maugham are friends with. In writing like this, Somerset makes the book a strange mixture of first and third person accounts. It is truly refreshing for the reader to read a story written as if it was meant to be told at a campfire as a story. That being said, this book isn’t meant for the readers who expect a lot of action and adventure coming from within a novel. This book was written for those who want to think and contemplate their lives. For anyone who would want to read about finding meaning in a somewhat meaningless world, I would highly recommend this novel.

-Steve Dobrioglo B1

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