Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Understanding Mildred

I think I've already written about my affection for Of Human Bondage by WS Maugham - now I come to think of it I don't think there is any other book, apart from LOTR, that I've re-read so many times. Pride and Prejudice? Tess? HMS Surprise? Hmm. Not sure.

Anyway I recently re-read it and it confirmed all my best hopes like it always does. What makes it a great book is that every time I read it I discover something new in it. For a long time I've admired its control of character, use of language and how it engenders sympathy for Philip. Although giving him a club foot and making him an orphan looks a bit obvious even to a newbie such as myself.

Anyhoo, this time around it struck me that what gives the book its power is that some of the incidents in it are so well tied to the stage in Philip's life at which they occur. Mildred's destruction of all Philip's property has to happen because in doing that she severs his link with his past - which she represents. By destroying his possessions she forces him to start anew and launches him on that track. After this incident Philips' life slowly, with one major downturn, starts to pick up. He becomes reconciled to who he is and starts to swim well in the stream of life.

For a long time though I just did not get why she did it apart from it being one with her narrow, vindictive character. Which is another reason why its a great book. Not only do the incidents underscore the broader story of Philips journey through life they are also utterly in tune with the characters of the people carrying them out. I'm not sure how many times I've read OHB but I'm betting that 2008 was by no means the last.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

And we're back

August 13th. Ooof. I'll blame crazy times at work for the hiatus. I don't propose to bore anyone with the details instead I'll bore allcomers with more entries. Don't say you weren't warned.