Editorial Reviews for this title:
The Great War changed everything and the years following it were tumultuous - most of all for those who lived the war first-hand. Maugham himself is a character in this novel of self-discovery and search for meaning, but the protagonist is a character named Larry. Battered physically and spiritually by the war, Larry's physical wounds heal, but his spirit is changed almost beyond recognition. He leaves his betrothed, the beautiful and devoted Isabel. He studies philosophy and religion in Paris. He lives as a monk. He witnesses the exotic hardships of Spanish life. All of life that he can find - from an Indian Ashrama to labor in a coal mine - becomes Larry's spiritual experiment as he spurns the comfort and privilege of the Roaring '20s. Maugham's theme is the contrast of spiritual content between Larry and the growing materialism and sophistication of those he left behind - and the surprising irony of where both of those paths lead.
With this book Maugham skilfully dramatizes a philosophical treatise on the clash of Eastern spirituality and Western culture into one man's relentless journey towards enlightenment and the repercussions of such an action on the loves and lives of others. Hidden beneath the exquisite prose, a lesson in self-determination and self-development slowly unravels and reveals itself amidst a beautifully balanced cast of players and the customs, prejudices, and decadence of the day. Although by no means the first to anticipate the growing influence of Eastern Culture on Europe and America, Maugham-who drifts through the story as a unassuming narrator-produces a work that proved perceptive to the point of prophetic and predated the Beats who were to popularize the phenomenon by over a decade.
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