“Maugham should have titled his masterpiece "Not Mildred Again." Mildred is the most horrible female excrescence I've encountered in classic lit since Madame DeFarge. My certainty that I knew what Mildred would do next, and horror of her reappearance to meet or exceed my expectations, kept me in a froth of dramatic irony that carried me breathless through the slow parts.
I should not have loved this novel as much as I did; I dislike the time period, dislike weak male protagonists who can't make up their minds, dislike early 20th century realism unless written by Wharton and set among the glitterati. . .but in spite of myself I love this novel. I credit Maugham's brilliant pacing. I was made to limp along with Philip Carey through his awful boyhood and worse twenties, and either had to bear with poor Philip or throw the novel against the wall. Maugham put me so thoroughly in Phil's hapless skin that there were no other alternatives.
Everything that makes a work a great classic is here. The Everyman (anti?)hero delivers on every level. Big questions are tackled. The sense of deja vu is pervasive; one would have to be very young and naive indeed not to feel it. If the happy ending rings a bit untrue--lurching from most bitter Steinbeck to most idyllic Cather in 50 pages or less--the reader has endured so much with Philip that it comes as a profound relief.”