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The age of beauty bondage

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I n Aspects of the Novel , EM Forster wrote: "The final test of a novel will be our affection for it, as it is the test of our friends, of anything else that we cannot define. For English readers, this is a Bildungsroman we mostly first encounter as adolescents. It earns its place in this list for the edgy economy of its dark, often cruel narrative more than its style prosaic or its humanity tormented. Maugham's unforgettable portrait of Philip Carey is one that teenagers, typically, will ingest like junkies, not least because Maugham poured so much of himself into the plot of the novel and its strangely sympathetic protagonist. Perhaps not since David Copperfield , an obvious inspiration No 15 in this series , had an English writer mined his own life so explicitly or so ruthlessly.

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