The Razor's Edge

The Razor's Edge

by W. Somerset Maugham


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Larry Darrell is a young American in search of the absolute. The progress of this spiritual odyssey involves him with some of Maugham's most brillant characters - his fiancee Isabel, whose choice between love and wealth have lifelong repercussions, and Elliot Templeton, her uncle, a classic expatriate American snob. The most ambitious of Maugham's novels, this is also one in which Maugham himself plays a considerable part as he wanders in and out of the story, to observe his characters struggling with their fates.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781400034208
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/09/2003
Series: Vintage International Series
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 102,425
Product dimensions: 5.14(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.65(d)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

W. Somerset Maugham was one the twentieth century’s most popular novelists as well as a celebrated playwright, critic, and short story writer. He was born in Paris but grew up in England and served as a secret agent for the British during World War I. He wrote many novels, including the classics Of Human Bondage, Cakes and Ale, Christmas Holiday, The Moon and Sixpence, Theatre, and Up at the Villa.

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The Razor's Edge 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 74 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
For years, this has been the book that I buy every time I find it so I can put it on my shelf in preparation to share it with friends looking for a good book to read. This story centers around four main characters (two men and two women) coming of age during and immediately following WWI. All four live a comfortable lifestyle until the two men experience the unthinkable as they work as field medics, ambulance drivers. My favorite character, Larry Darryl, returns from his ambulance-driving experience uncomfortable with the luxuries to which he was previously accustomed. Soon after his return, he decides to 'loaf' despite his female admirer's chagrin. Larry takes the road less traveled by exploring the world with little to no regard to the lifestyle Americans find so enchanting prior to the Great Depression...and without judging the people who come in and out of his life sometimes at their very lowest points. His former love marries the other man in hopes of achieving the social stature she craves. I won't give any more of the story away. The reason why I love it so much is that Larry could have lived the comfortable life, but he chose to do something uncomfortable so he could really experience life and people as they are. When I feel stuck in my comfortable American notions of the way life is supposed to be, I read this book and think about the difficult path that Larry took. Unpopular, imperfect, real.
Guest More than 1 year ago
W. Somserset Maugham's magnificent prose and ability to condense such an important theme into so short a story simply justifies his eminence as one of the greatest writers of all time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very captivating book. Great for lovers of classics, tragedies, mysteries, biographies. This book is highly original in its format, a fascinating way to tell a story. Interesting twists will keep the reader involved until the end.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is first and foremost, British, all the while its main characters are predominately Americans. The setting is mostly based in metropolitan Cities (Chicago, Paris, London, and French Rivera) and the story comes to the reader through dialogues of its characters. We live alongside the American aristocricy in Paris, their social arenas and 'snobby' characters one main foil character to our protagonist (see below) is Elliott. Elliot the wealthy art collector who even upon death's doorstep, believes heaven will not be so unreasonable as to omit distinctions of class. Moreover the key feature of this book is that it is told in First person, Maugham himself being the narrator. This narration by its quiddity is limited. We lose the action of the events as they actually happen, if that goes then so does the experience of witnessing the story taking place (e.g. a 3rd person omniscient narrator). We are trapped into an individuals head, the narrator, and are limited to his interpretations of the events. As dead_poet above outlined very well, the substance of the plot. I will only add that the protagonist, Larry, is one of the great protagonists of all literature, especially for young people. He is unconventional among his bourgeois peers, (e.g. his behavior, ideals, and upbringing), A self proclaimed 'loafer', seeking out life's real answers to suffering, God, and purpose, he is a man truly awake and awoken by the death of a comrade in the Great War. He never seemed to be the same after that event. He didn't take on a career or college, ending up spiraling eastward ending in defaulting his fortune for freedom's sake and aspiring a coveted position as 'taxi driver'. Larry and his persona made the book, made me dare to dream for something more than the status quo career, money, religion and seek (but not reveal) hard answers to life's unanswerable questions.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A thoroughly excellent read. I believe Salvadore Dali' must have read this book. His book HIDDEN FACES seems to echo some of the rich characterizations here. It may do well for our generation of war ravaged young people to read this. Men sometimes drift after witnessing the destructiveness of combat. This book deals with the destructiveness of World War I and its affect on Hemingway's LOST GENERATION.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It's just the greatest. It displays human nature and the wonder of life perfectly. I loved it and the movies good too.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love it. Saw both the original& remake. Am loving the book.
Bcbtree More than 1 year ago
A look into l930's of life of the aristocracy before and after the world market crash in Europe and the U.S. Very wordy and descriptive with a look at what is and isn't important in life. A good read after 50 years passing since first read.
audreylou More than 1 year ago
A simply wonderful account of the author's relationships with the characters he writes about. After seeing them movie on TV recently I felt I needed to read the book. The movie stays pretty much true to the book as it not often the case. After seeing the film the characters have so much more depth when reading about them.
Da_Greek More than 1 year ago
One of the best ways I feel I can describe this book is simply that it's like a stream of truth, with a current never pulling you along, but always gentle in its form. Some novels will leave their messages and themes to be interpreted in some esoteric manner, or on the opposite of the spectrum be too obvious with their themes, but this work finds a balance. The reader will never find him or herself in a place where they have lost track of where they are, and what the book is doing, but on a philosophical level, it's level of insight is consistently top notch from opening to close. I found reading the book to be an intimate experience; the narrators world is thoroughly understood, and through the narrator all the other characters thoroughly understood as well. The entire book is driven simply by the emotional lives of the characters, varied enough so that any reader will easily find elements of his or her own life within the characters' experiences. I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone who is looking to increase their knowledge of the modern human experience.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Razor's Edge came recommend to me from a source I trust. And while it hasn't made my list of greatest books written, it is a good book to read. It's tough to give a synopsis of the book, since like so many other British writers there isn't much of a plot, more of a portrait of a group within society. I guess you could say it is the story of Larry Darrell's search for God. But it only touches on spiritual matters. It doesn't go into the discussion we hope for. (If you're looking for a treatise on spirituality, read Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, Kerouac's The Dharma Bums, and Anne Rice's Tale of the Body Theif) Maugham himself is a character and narrator of the book. He sort of reminds me of Nick in The Great Gatsby, but only a little. Maugham is a part of the action, but still separate from it. What this book reminds me of is a work by Jane Austen, but written better (I'm known for my dislike of Austen's work). I don't really get into Brit lit from the 18th and 19th centuries, but this book reminds me of that period. But written in such a way I found I enjoyed it. There isn't much linear structure to the novel. A lot of the action takes place in flashback, or in stories told in flashbacks. But Maugham keeps the reader from being confused. The book reads like a book. You know how some stories draw you in, to the point where you are a part of the story? The Razor's Edge isn't like that. You always feel like you are reading a book written by the narrator or that the narrator is telling you the story. There is a distance between the reader and the narrator and the narrator and the story. I think that is what holds the book back.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It was very inspiring and a good read for anyone.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
MarthaL on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is an enjoyable and rather profound book hard to get into but worth reading again. Larry Templeton is a returning soldier who says he just want to loaf. His girl friend realizes he is not the one she want to marry. The social atmosphere of the book sets up this rather philisophical story. Larry and Isabel along with some other character are meeting here or there for lunch and parties. Larry is elusive, never lets his know what he lives or what he is doing. He ends up becoming quite the student. In the end his sucessful life is far different
ktp50 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The quality of writing is what remains; it is fantastic. A character sketch done by a master. The book speaks to the larger themes of love, success, spirtualism and accomplishment. Western society has evolved to the point where citizens can choose their destiny, do they choose wisely. Read and find out.
bibliophile007 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
" The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over; thus the wise say the path to Salvation is hard." Excellent book with a character reminiscent of Gatsby-he's equal in shallowness, and features another character desparately trying to find himself. Unique format-one of the characters is the author and the narrator.
kidrah on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My entire theme for the summer is built on the central character's implied philosophy: no obligation to time or people. This book is the perfect book to spark thinking about the "road less traveled". Also, it builds such a good character sketch of someone who is disassociated from the obligations of time and other people, that it makes you wonder what you would discover about yourself if you cut those chains.
writer1985 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Interesting tale. Maugham, an Englishman, creates a believable and engaging depiction of upper-class Americans in the 1920s and 30s as they navigate the rapidly changing world and each other.The novel begins just after World War I and primarily focuses on Larry, an ex-aviator dealing with what would now be recognized as PTSD and generally unsatisfied with his place in life. Although he eschews college as a place for puerile undergraduates to avoid growing up, he becomes an auto-didact, seeking answers to his philosophical questions in books. Meanwhile, he neglects his human relationships, including his engagement with a girl whose mother and uncle encourage her to marry another man. The usual love triangle ensues.What saves this novel from merely being Gatsby's backstory is Maugham's wonderful attention to the range of human emotion. On the surface, his characters may appear two-dimensional (especially Elliott, the arch-snob), but they develop in surprising yet realistic ways. The plot itself can be didactic and ordinary at times, and the awkward use of Maugham as his own narrator is jarring, but the character development is simply superb.This novel deserves a place alongside Fitzgerald's as a study of human passions during the Jazz Age.
cinesnail88 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As much as I adored Somerset Maugham before, I must say I like him even better after reading this novel. I had forgotten what a talent he has for writing - his style is so perfect to me, I become immediately enthralled with any narrative he puts forth. Not to mention his wit is particularly lovely, and his descriptive powers are decidedly unmatched.I absolutely loved Eliott Templeton in all his shallowness. What a marvelous character, created in such a way as to make him even more so.I definitely will be returning to Maugham again soon.
kambrogi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the story of Larry Darrell, a young man so changed by his WWI experience that he leaves his friends, his fiancé and the promise of a lucrative career in America to pursue Truth, first in Paris and Europe, and later in the Far East. His tale is revealed through scraps of information gathered by a writer ¿ presented as Maugham himself ¿ who interacts with Darrell¿s fiancé Isabel, her uncle, and various other acquaintances, even on occasion Larry himself, over the course of many years. I found the story, which is as much about Isabel and her uncle as it is about Darrell, a fascinating examination of life choices. I did not care, however, for the narrative style. Although the disinterested first-person narrator has a distinguished history with outstanding writers ¿ William Styron, Phillip Roth and F. Scott Fitzgeral, among others ¿ I find it frustrating. We are always kept at a distance from emotion, and made to understand that the information we have will at best be sketchy. Fortunately, this is a story powerful enough to that survive even such cool treatment.
omame on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
For awhile, I wasn't sure why I felt the compulsion to keep reading this book. The prose certainly wasn't transcendent and the plot wasn't thrilling. But there was something that kept me going. Then I figured it out. Somerset Maugham created characters so interesting that I just wanted to know as much as I could about each of them. And that's what the book provided: rich, full character studies.
MarthaHuntley on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was much as Maugham describes his time, as a character in the book, interacting with the other characters -- a gossip. I kept getting intriguing glimpses of the author between the lines. And I think its last paragraph is one of the most clever and satisfying summing-up endings I've ever read.
rainpebble on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have put off the writing of this for several days as I just quite do not know how to do a review on the stuff this book is made of. I love this book and I did not want it to end. I especially love the style Maugham used in the writing of it. Immediately upon beginning the book, I was reminded of reading "Brideshead Revisited" and how much I disliked that book mainly because I could not understand nor care about the characters nor the way they lived their lives throughout the story. In "The Razor's Edge" Larry says he just "wants to loaf." And most of the characters within the book spend their days "loafing" of a sort. They spend them lunching with friends, having drinks, living in quite the same type of manner. But in this book I understood why the people lived as they did. I cared about the characters within this novel. I cared about what they did, what they ate, what they drank, what they said, with whom they spent their time, where they went. In other words I quickly came to care about every aspect of their lives. I became so drawn into the story that I forgot about my own world the whole time during which I was reading it. I think most of us know the story of "The Razor's Edge" whether we have read it or not. I know I did. There are many reviews on this site that will share that information with you if you wish. I was prepared for the story. What I was not prepared for was the gamut of emotions I went through as I read this slim novel. Nor was I prepared to see the characters so fully fleshed out to the point that while I was reading the book, I actually knew these people. I was also not prepared for the brilliance of Somerset Maugham's writing. As in this quote from Larry:"You can't imagine what a thrill it is to read the "Odyssey" in the original. It makes you feel as if you had only to get on tiptoe and stretch out your hands to touch the stars."There is one point in the novel where the narrator, Maugham, and Larry accidentally run into each other at the theater and decide to meet for drinks afterward. They order a late night supper of eggs and bacon and talk. Maugham realizes that Larry wants to talk (usually he is quite private) and just sits back and lets him, responding when it is appropriate. He allows Larry to tell his story which runs until after breakfast the next morning and fully 41 pages of the book. At one point Larry is telling about living with a Benedictine monk and their conversations and he tells of the monk asking him: "Do you believe in God?" The narrative goes on: "Larry hesitated for a moment, and when he went on I knew he wasn't speaking to me but to the Benedictine monk. He had forgotten me. I don't know what there was in the time or the place that enabled him to speak, without my prompting, of what his natural reticence had so long concealed." This is a beautiful story written in absolutely beautiful prose.If you have not read it, you should. I highly recommend it.
markbstephenson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read this after seeing the movie starring Tyrone Power and was struck by the changes the Hollywood people thought necessary.
jmchshannon on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Razor's Edge is a subtle novel. The action is slight while the character development is not visibly apparent, and yet, each of the characters has matured and grown in such a way that the reader is left feeling completely satisfied upon finishing reading it. In addition, it is designed in such a way that different characters will appeal to different readers. The end result is a lush novel revolving around the search for happiness and what it means to different people.The main story revolves around Larry, a WWI veteran who returns from the war facing a spiritual crisis. The narrator, Maugham himself, then proceeds to share his knowledge on how Larry manages to go through life searching for answers that will assuage the crisis and help him achieve peace and happiness. The reader is also introduced to several dissimilar characters who all help define Larry's search - Elliott, the wealthy snob with a soft spot for his family, Isabel, Larry's former fiance, Gray, the man Isabel eventually marries, Sophie, and a cast of other characters. Each is flawed, each is unhappy and searching for something to help ease their pain. Their journeys, as told through Maugham's eyes as the ever-present narrator/friend of the participants of the tableau, and the subsequent endings of those journeys provide the reader with ample ideas on what true happiness entails. Materialistic or spiritualistic, everyone seeks some form of satisfaction in their life. The forms it takes is uniquely personal and what makes life worth living.Highly philosophical in nature, The Razor's Edge is definitely a thinking person's novel. "Nothing in the world is permanent, and we're foolish when we ask anything to last, but surely we're still more foolish not to take delight in it while we have it." (p. 277)Published in 1943, it promotes the currently popular Eastern philosophies touted in such novels as Eat, Pray, Love and the like. Yet, The Razor's Edge is not a sermon. Rather, it is an expression of love and acceptance. Everyone's search will result in a different ending, and that is okay. To quote a friend, "life is a journey". This is a sentiment prevalent in The Razor's Edge.I fear that words have failed to describe how much I adored this novel. I empathized with Larry in his search for peace, while several members of my book club felt for Isabel and her search for social acceptance. Each reader will bring his or her own biases to the novel and will walk away with a completely different take on the meaning behind the story and on Maugham's purpose in writing it. I love novels that are like this. Having read several of Maugham's other novels to date, The Razor's Edge solidified Maugham's place near the top of my list of all-time favorite authors. It truly is the epitome of historical, literary fiction.