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The Razor's Edge (Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics) [Paperback]

W. Somerset Maugham
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (101 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 27 1992
The story of the spiritual odyssey of a young American in search of God.

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Review

“[Maugham is] a great artist . . . a genius.” –Theodore Dreiser

“[Maugham’s] excessively rare gift of story-telling . . . is almost the equal of imagination itself.” –The Sunday Times (London)

“It is very difficult for a writer of my generation, if he is honest, to pretend indifference to the work of Somerset Maugham. . . . He was always so entirely there.” –Gore Vidal

“Maugham remains the consummate craftsman. . . . [His writing is] so compact, so economical, so closely motivated, so skillfully written, that it rivets attention from the first page to last.” –Saturday Review of Literature --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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The Bookcassette® format is a special recording technique developed as a means of condensing the full, unabridged audio text of a book to record it on fewer tapes. In order to listen to these tapes, you will need a cassette player with balance control to adjust left/right speaker output. Special adaptors to allow these tapes to be played on any cassette player are available through the publisher or some US retail electronics stores. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Throughly enjoyable, and illuminating! May 31 2004
Format:Paperback
The Razor's Edge is a tale of one man (Larry) who was born and brought up in US, spend many years in Europe, first flying aircrafts in WW I and later living an idiosyncratic existence where he searched for purpose and ambition through books, languages and labor. He later travels to India, and finds solace in the Hindu philosophy, where he also learns how to medidate and be at peace with oneself and the world. Maugham writes a very accurate and engaging account of Hinduism.

The novel explores the relationship of various people. The author as a part of story travels in and out of the life of Larry and his friends, and through several conversations that occur intermittenly recreates the story of Larry, Isabel, Gray, Elliot and Sophie. Isabel loves Larry, but Larry's insistance on choosing to loaf and search for the meaning of life and his purpose (and hence living a poor life) and marries Gray, the multimillionaire. Without divulging much details of the story, one can say that the author does a good job in making his characters real and interesting, and presents through them an array of human emotions.
The Razor's edge is also a social commentary, and Maugham opens a window into the lifes and times of early twentieth century Upper classes, their constant striving for popularity and for materialistic pleasures, their hopes, and failings. The story is written in a sentiment and style that makes this discussion and critique on classes as invisible score playing somewhere in background.
In modern context of the philosophy of science, as say Capra in his Tao of Physics points out, or read Complexity by Waldrop, Eastern and especially Indian ageold wisdom and philosophy resonantes with the new contexts and paradigms in science.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Superlative storytelling May 24 2004
Format:Paperback
Rarely can a book truly pull you in from the moment you commence reading. Well, The Razor's Edge is the exception to the rule. It is not only the mark of a good book, but a sublime storyteller. The incredible combination of an extraordinary melange of remarkably eclectic and certifiably unforgettable characters, a masterfully woven premise of singular quality, as well as a suave and melodious prose that virtually flows off of the page all emanate early and often from Maugham's pen in The Razor's Edge.
While much has been made of the inscrutable idealist Larry Darrell, I found myself equally fascinated by the beautiful, yet cold and predictable Isabel, the banality of everyman Gray, the irrepressible flair of Elliott Templeton, the vague goings-on of Maugham, and, last but not least, the expressly antithetical, yet similarly intriguing, tales of Suzanne Bouvier and Sophie Macdonald. What makes The Razor's Edge so engrossingly captivating is the dichotomy of Maugham employing himself as the first person narrator and the irrefutable fact that the book draws from a vast multitude of his personal experiences -- both of which add immensely to the verisimilitude of the experience. In short, it has the feel of a memoir of sorts -- a true testament to Maugham's genius.
"He's the idealist, he's the dreamer of a beautiful dream, and even if the dream doesn't come true, it's rather thrilling to have dreamt it." - Maugham
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3.0 out of 5 stars Not what it appears to be... May 20 2004
Format:Paperback
'The Razor's Edge' is usually billed as the story of Larry Darrell, a young man on a spiritual journey. However, the bulk of the text concerns Elliott Templeton, as he journeys from middle to old age, as a garrulous, opinionated, in some sense well-meaning, but in many ways tragically limited character. His motivations remain overtly uncharted, yet much is implied. Prime among these implications is his sexual orientation.
*
Maugham himself is the narrator and a character in this novel; hence, it's not unreasonable to think that his own life history would be relevant to the book. Jeffrey Meyer's recent biography, available on Amazon, is a good source of information. Maugham was married, unhappily, and during the Second World War, openly admitted his homosexuality, living as a homosexual for the rest of his long life. He published 78 books, selling over 40 million copies. Many, if not all, his characters were reportedly based on people he knew in real life. There are suggestions, then, that Elliott is an amalgam of several persons, possibly even of some aspects of Maugham himself. It's worth bearing in mind that homosexuality was illegal in England at the time the book was written. This in itself might go some way to explaining why certain matters are implied rather than directly addressed.
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The Larry Darrell character is less insightfully presented that one might expect. He seems more the object of infatuation of several of the characters, not least of Maugham himself. As such, he is indulged, even when his actions might, objectively, be objectionable or obscure. His ruminations upon mysticism, in particular, are related by Maugham in a spirit of tolerance, with the occasional, very much muffled, hint of skepticism.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Razor's Edge Oct. 16 2003
Format:Paperback
I own a First Edition of this book(it is for sale) and have read it, but when I viewed the original film with Tyrone Power, Gene Tierney and Anne Baxter, it really touched me!
Larry Darrell, who has served in World War I as a pilot, is touched deeply by the war. He comes back to his fiance' (Anne Baxter), but is restless. He goes off to Paris and than India to find the meaning of life.
During his time in Paris his fiance' visits him. She toys with the idea of tricking him to get him to marry her, but instead releases him and returns to America with her family.
In America she becomes engaged to a very rich man, marries him and bear two daughters. But in her heart she still loves Larry. In asides with her uncle, a hilariously funny man who is always doing the "right thing" and meeting the "right people", she confesses her feelings about Larry.
When the American stock market crashes Anne's husband loses all his money. However, her uncle sold his stock and holdings before the crash, making a good deal more money to add to his pile! The uncle brings Anne, her husband and children to Paris, where he now lives, and supports them.
Unfortunately, since losing his money Anne's husband has been ill, becoming very incapacitated.
Larry leaves India and meets The Author, who is narrating the story, in Paris. He goes with Mr. Maugham to see Anne, her husband and children.
Larry is able to "cure" Anne's husband. However, Anne's repayal of Larry's generousity and her understanding of him is quite limited, therefore lies the rub...
I won't give away the rest of it, because you need to experience it yourself.
Anne Baxter won an Oscar for best supporting actress in this film!
Hollywood how about some films like this one!
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars GOOD BOOK
Long, detailed, good story, great characters. I've been told I should see both movie versions
Published 2 days ago by LanceL
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read
Captivating, fascinating and hard-to-put-down story about a group of friends who share very different lifestyles in America and Europe in the early 1900s. Read more
Published 21 days ago by Yvan Clermont
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A classic!
Published 1 month ago by oappelm
5.0 out of 5 stars An insightful book that everyone should read. Fyi, ...
An insightful book that everyone should read. Fyi, watch the original film and not the Bill Murray version (though it is decent still).
Published 1 month ago by Eric Lingen
3.0 out of 5 stars Thought it was a horrible book all around
My review is for the novel "Gone Girl". Thought it was a horrible book all around.
Published 1 month ago by Coffeelady
5.0 out of 5 stars The Razor's Edge
This book was an important read during my university years and now copies are in the hands of the next generation in our family. An inspiring read.
Published 9 months ago by Leonard Pacelli
5.0 out of 5 stars A look into another world in another time
Yet the writing is so full that we can feel part of this other world.

I came to this story by the back door. Read more
Published 11 months ago by bernie
5.0 out of 5 stars A look into another world in another time
Yet the writing is so full that we can feel part of this other world.

I came to this story by the back door. Read more
Published 11 months ago by bernie
5.0 out of 5 stars The Razor's edge
I purchased this item as a gift and as far as I know it was all the person thought it would be
Published on Dec 4 2011 by Peter Koch
5.0 out of 5 stars A look into another world in another time
Yet the writing is so full that we can feel part of this other world.

I came to this story by the back door. Read more
Published on Sept. 1 2010 by bernie
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