I finished Of Human Bondage yesterday. I enjoyed it, but I also would have equally enjoyed not reading it. It’s engrossing, but the language never made me stop and say, “Wow!”; and there was just too much introspection from the main character about the meaning of life for my taste.
It also seemed almost comically existential to me: Philip’s conclusions about the futility of life only reminded me of “The Jean-Paul Sartre Cookbook” (worth a click). For example, he visits his old school:
He thought bitterly how much he had wanted to do and how little done. It seemed to him that all those years, vanished beyond recall, had been utterly wasted. The boys, fresh and buoyant, were doing the same things that he had done, it seemed that not a day had passed since he left the school, and yet in that place where at least by name he had known everybody now he knew not a soul. In a few years these too, others taking their place, would stand alien as he stood; but the reflection brought him no solace; it merely impressed upon him the futility of human existence.
Dude, easy there. He also falls in love–a happy thing, right? Not really:
He had thought of love as a rapture which seized one so that all the world seemed spring-like, he had looked forward to an ecstatic happiness; but this was not happiness; it was a hunger of the soul, it was a painful yearning, it was a bitter anguish, he had never known before…When she left him it was wretchedness, and when she came to him again it was despair.
And so on, for quite a few pages. And then at the end he finds happiness with a different girl, and in one chapter we’re told that all of his angst and unhappiness and obsessions with his other love will be cured by marriage. (If it had been about a red-haired girl and had more hijinks, that ending would have made me think I was reading Anne of Green Gables.)
So, a good book–just not to my taste. (And seriously, click through that Sartre link. My best friend and I thought it was the height of cleverness in high school.)