W. Somerset Maugham, Of Human Bondage
This masterpiece by Somerset Maugham is so painful and vivid on the kind of blind adoration which can’t be curbed by cruelty. The succession of indignities inflicted on hapless Philip Carey left me in tears when I read it as a teenager. We meet recently orphaned Philip when he is nine years old and follow him through difficult school years socially impeded by a clubfoot, to art school in Paris where a fellow artist Fanny falls in love with him and commits suicide when her feelings are not returned, and then to London where he studies medicine having abandoned his artistic ambitions. It is here he meets Mildred, a waitress in a tea room, and falls desperately in love. Her complete indifference and inability to regard him as a real human being make no difference. He continuously forgives her rudeness and outright savagery, giving her money just before she leaves him, taking her in when she has been rendered pathetic by misfortune with other men. Mildred has no apparent attractive redeeming qualities and doesn’t need them, obsession being untethered to logic. Although Philip eventually unshackles himself from Mildred, it isn’t before she has taken more or less anything she can from him, materially and emotionally.