Set in England and Hong Kong in the 1920s, The Painted Veil is the story of the beautiful but love-starved Kitty Fane. When her husband discovers her adulterous affair, he forces her to accompany him to the heart of a cholera epidemic. Stripped of the British society of her youth and the small but effective society she fought so hard to attain in Hong Kong, she is compelled by her awakening conscience to reassess her life and learn how to love.
The Painted Veil is a beautifully written affirmation of the human capacity to grow, to change, and to forgive.
About the Author
W. Somerset Maugham was one of the twentieth century’s most popular novelists as well as a celebrated playwright, critic, and short story writer. He was born in Paris but grew up in England and served as a secret agent for the British during World War I. He wrote many novels, including the classics Of Human Bondage, The Razor’s Edge, Cakes and Ale, Christmas Holiday, The Moon and Sixpence, Theatre, and Up at the Villa.
Read an Excerpt
She gave a startled cry.
"What's the matter?" he asked.
Notwithstanding the darkness of the shuttered room he saw her face on a sudden distraught with terror.
"Some one just tried the door."
"Well, perhaps it was the amah, or one of the boys."
"They never come at this time. They know I always sleep after tiffin."
"Who else could it be?"
"Walter," she whispered, her lips trembling.
She pointed to his shoes. He tried to put them on, but his nervousness, for her alarm was affecting him, made him clumsy, and besides, they were on the tight side. With a faint gasp of impatience she gave him a shoe horn. She slipped into a kimono and in her bare feet went over to her dressing-table. Her hair was shingled and with a comb she had repaired its disorder before he had laced his second shoe. She handed him his coat.
"How shall I get out?"
"You'd better wait a bit. I'll look out and see that it's all right."
"It can't possibly be Walter. He doesn't leave the laboratory till five."
"Who is it then?"
They spoke in whispers now. She was quaking. It occurred to him that in an emergency she would lose her head and on a sudden he felt angry with her. If it wasn't safe why the devil had she said it was? She caught her breath and put her hand on his arm. He followed the direction of her glance. They stood facing the windows that led out on the verandah. They were shuttered and the shutters were bolted. They saw the white china knob of the handle slowly turn. They had heard no one walk along the verandah. It was terrifying to see that silent motion. A minute passed and there was no sound. Then, with the ghastliness of the supernatural, in the same stealthy, noiseless, and horrifying manner, they saw the white china knob of the handle at the other window turn also. It was so frightening that Kitty, her nerves failing her, opened her mouth to scream; but, seeing what she was going to do, he swiftly put his hand over it and her cry was smothered in his fingers.
Silence. She leaned against him, her knees shaking, and he was afraid she would faint. Frowning, his jaw set, he carried her to the bed and sat her down upon it. She was as white as the sheet and notwithstanding his tan his cheeks were pale too. He stood by her side looking with fascinated gaze at the china knob. They did not speak. Then he saw that she was crying.
"For God's sake don't do that," he whispered irritably. "If we're in for it we're in for it. We shall just have to brazen it out."
She looked for her handkerchief and knowing what she wanted he gave her her bag.
"Where's your topee?"
"I left it downstairs."
"Oh, my God!"
"I say, you must pull yourself together. It's a hundred to one it wasn't Walter. Why on earth should he come back at this hour? He never does come home in the middle of the day, does he?"
"I'll bet you anything you like it was amah."
She gave him the shadow of a smile. His rich, caressing voice reassured her and she took his hand and affectionately pressed it. He gave her a moment to collect herself.
"Look here, we can't stay here for ever," he said then. "Do you feel up to going out on the verandah and having a look?"
"I don't think I can stand."
"Have you got any brandy in here?"
She shook her head. A frown for an instant darkened his brow, he was growing impatient, he did not quite know what to do. Suddenly she clutched his hand more tightly.
"Suppose he's waiting there?"
He forced his lips to smile and his voice retained the gentle, persuasive tone the effect of which he was so fully conscious of.
"That's not very likely. Have a little pluck, Kitty. How can it possibly be your husband? If he'd come in and seen a strange topee in the hall and come upstairs and found your room locked, surely he would have made some sort of row. It must have been one of the servants. Only a Chinese would turn a handle in that way."
She did feel more herself now.
"It's not very pleasant even if it was only the amah."
"She can be squared and if necessary I'll put the fear of God into her. There are not many advantages in being a government official, but you may as well get what you can out of it."
He must be right. She stood up and turning to him stretched out her arms: he took her in his and kissed her on the lips. It was such rapture that it was pain. She adored him. He released her and she went to the window. She slid back the bolt and opening the shutter a little looked out. There was not a soul. She slipped on to the verandah, looked into her husband's dressing-room and then into her own sitting-room. Both were empty. She went back to the bedroom and beckoned to him.
"I believe the whole thing was an optical delusion."
"Don't laugh. I was terrified. Go into my sitting-room and sit down. I'll put on my stockings and some shoes."
He did as she bade and in five minutes she joined him. He was smoking a cigarette.
"I say, could I have a brandy and soda?"
"Yes, I'll ring."
"I don't think it would hurt you by the look of things."
They waited in silence for the boy to answer. She gave the order.
"Ring up the laboratory and ask if Walter is there," she said then. "They won't know your voice."
He took up the receiver and asked for the number. He inquired whether Dr. Fane was in. He put down the receiver.
"He hasn't been in since tiffin," he told her. "Ask the boy whether he has been here."
"I daren't. It'll look so funny if he has and I didn't see him."
The boy brought the drinks and Townsend helped himself. When he offered her some she shook her head.
"What's to be done if it was Walter?" she asked.
"Perhaps he wouldn't care."
Her tone was incredulous.
"It's always struck me he was rather shy. Some men can't bear scenes, you know. He's got sense enough to know that there's nothing to be gained by making a scandal. I don't believe for a minute it was Walter, but even if it was, my impression is that he'll do nothing. I think he'll ignore it."
She reflected for a moment.
"He's awfully in love with me."
"Well, that's all to the good. You'll get round him."
He gave her that charming smile of his which she had always found so irresistible. It was a slow smile which started in his clear blue eyes and traveled by perceptible degrees to his shapely mouth. He had small white even teeth. It was a very sensual smile and it made her heart melt in her body.
"I don't very much care," she said, with a flash of gaiety. "It was worth it."
"It was my fault."
"Why did you come? I was amazed to see you."
"I couldn't resist it."
She leaned a little towards him, her dark and shining eyes gazing passionately into his, her mouth a little open with desire, and he put his arms round her. She abandoned herself with a sigh of ecstasy to their shelter.
"You know you can always count on me," he said.
"I'm so happy with you. I wish I could make you as happy as you make me."
"You're not frightened any more?"
"I hate Walter," she answered.
He did not quite know what to say to this, so he kissed her. Her face was very soft against his.
But he took her wrist on which was a little gold watch and looked at the time.
"Do you know what I must do now?"
"Bolt?" she smiled.
He nodded. For one instant she clung to him more closely, but she felt his desire to go, and she released him.
"It's shameful the way you neglect your work. Be off with you."
He could never resist the temptation to flirt.
"You seem in a devil of a hurry to get rid of me," he said lightly.
"You know that I hate to let you go."
Her answer was low and deep and serious. He gave a flattered laugh.
"Don't worry your pretty little head about our mysterious visitor. I'm quite sure it was the amah. And if there's any trouble I guarantee to get you out of it."
"Have you had a lot of experience?"
His smile was amused and complacent.
"No, but I flatter myself that I've got a head screwed on my shoulders."
She went out on to the verandah and watched him leave the house. He waved his hand to her. It gave her a little thrill as she looked at him; he was forty-one, but he had the lithe figure and the springing step of a boy.
The verandah was in shadow; and lazily, her heart at ease with satisfied love, she lingered. Their house stood in the Happy Valley, on the side of the hill, for they could not afford to live on the more eligible but expensive Peak. But her abstracted gaze scarcely noticed the blue sea and the crowded shipping in the harbor. She could think only of her lover.
Of course it was stupid to behave as they had done that afternoon, but if he wanted her how could she be prudent? He had come two or three times after tiffin, when in the heat of the day no one thought of stirring out, and not even the boys had seen him come and go. It was very difficult at Hong Kong. She hated the Chinese city and it made her nervous to go into the filthy little house off the Victoria Road in which they were in the habit of meeting. It was a curio dealer's; and the Chinese who were sitting about stared at her unpleasantly; she hated the ingratiating smile of the old man who took her to the back of the shop and then up a dark flight of stairs. The room into which he led her was frowsy and the large wooden bed against the wall made her shudder.
"This is dreadfully sordid, isn't it?" she said to Charlie the first time she met him there.
"It was till you came in," he answered.
Of course the moment he took her in his arms she forgot everything.
Oh, how hateful it was that she wasn't free, that they both weren't free! She didn't like his wife. Kitty's wandering thoughts dwelt now for a moment on Dorothy Townsend. How unfortunate to be called Dorothy! It dated you. She was thirty-eight at least. But Charlie never spoke of her. Of course he didn't care for her; she bored him to death. But he was a gentleman. Kitty smiled with affectionate irony: it was just like him, silly old thing; he might be unfaithful to her, but he would never allow a word in disparagement of her to cross his lips. She was a tallish woman, taller than Kitty, neither stout nor thin, with a good deal of pale brown hair; she could never have been pretty with anything but the prettiness of youth; her features were good enough without being remarkable and her blue eyes were cold. She had a skin that you would never look at twice and no color in her cheeks. And she dressed like-well, like what she was, the wife of the Assistant Colonial Secretary at Hong Kong. Kitty smiled and gave her shoulders a faint shrug.
Of course no one could deny that Dorothy Townsend had a pleasant voice. She was a wonderful mother, Charlie always said that of her, and she was what Kitty's mother called a gentlewoman. But Kitty did not like her. She did not like her casual manner; and the politeness with which she treated you when you were there, to tea or dinner, was exasperating because you could not but feel how little interest she took in you. The fact was, Kitty supposed, that she cared for nothing but her children: there were two boys at school in England, and another boy of six whom she was going to take home next year. Her face was a mask. She smiled and in her pleasant, well-mannered way said the things that were expected of her; but for all her cordiality held you at a distance. She had a few intimate friends in the Colony and they greatly admired her. Kitty wondered whether Mrs. Townsend thought her a little common. She flushed. After all there was no reason for her to put on airs. It was true that her father had been a Colonial Governor and of course it was very grand while it lasted-every one stood up when you entered a room and men took off their hats to you as you passed in your car-but what could be more insignificant than a Colonial Governor when he had retired? Dorothy Townsend's father lived on a pension in a small house at Earl's Court. Kitty's mother would think it a dreadful bore if she asked her to call. Kitty's father, Bernard Garstin, was a K.C. and there was no reason why he should not be made a judge one of these days. Anyhow they lived in South Kensington.
Kitty, coming to Hong Kong on her marriage, had found it hard to reconcile herself to the fact that her social position was determined by her husband's occupation. Of course every one had been very kind and for two or three months they had gone out to parties almost every night; when they dined at Government House the Governor took her in as a bride; but she had understood quickly that as the wife of the Government bacteriologist she was of no particular consequence. It made her angry.
"It's too absurd," she told her husband. "Why, there's hardly any one here that one would bother about for five minutes at home. Mother wouldn't dream of asking any of them to dine at our house."
"You mustn't let it worry you," he answered. "It doesn't really matter, you know."
"Of course it doesn't matter, it only shows how stupid they are, but it is rather funny when you think of all the people who used to come to our house at home that here we should be treated like dirt."
"From a social standpoint the man of science does not exist," he smiled.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Few writers of the past century could evoke a sense of mystery and atmosphere like W. Somerset Maugham. And while almost all readers are familiar with his major works (Of Human Bondage, Up at the Villa, The Razor's Edge, Cakes and Ale etc, the film versions of these having added to that international knowledge), few have had the pleasure of reading the rather private but equally satisfying 'feminist work', THE PAINTED VEIL. Now with the announcement that this novel, too, is soon to be released as a motion picture, hopefully many will read the book before, remembering how mesmerizingly well how Maugham can spin a tale. As with all of Maugham's novels, the stridency of class plays a role in this work. In a disturbing opening chapter Maugham places us in the room where Kitty is in the midst of seduction by Charlie Townsend and the adulterous couple shudder at the noise that would indicate that Kitty's bacteriologist husband Walter Kane may be spying on them. The intrigue is set and then the novel retraces the territory that placed the couple en flagrante in the middle of the incipient scandal that will alter the lives of all concerned. Kitty, the elder daughter of a fussy couple in London who had 'shamed' Kitty into finding a husband when Kitty's younger, unattractive sister is engaged, hurriedly marries the shy but solid Walter Kane who is about to be shipped off to Hong Kong. Once into Hong Kong Kitty's sensually hungry eye is met by the handsome but married with three children Colonial Secretary Charlie Townsend and they begin a torrid affair. When Walter discovers his wife's adultery he threatens to divorce her (thereby making public the scandal that would ruin Charlie's career) if she doesn't accompany him to Mei-tan-fu, China where a cholera epidemic is destroying the town. The situation finds Kitty struggling with her disdain for Walter whom she never has loved and eventual loathing for Charlie who proves to be the cad he is by putting his career and marriage over the 'silly thought' of running away with Kitty! Distraught, Kitty joins Walter on the trek to Mei-tan-fu where she gradually adjusts to the situation with the help of the consul Waddington who encourages her to fill her hours with helping the nuns care for the sick and the orphaned children. Kitty's life begins to change as she sees the manner in which Walter is focused on mankind, enhanced by the admiration he gains from the nuns. She discovers she is pregnant (whether by Walter or Charlie she does not know) but soon all attention shifts when Walter succumbs to cholera and Kitty, wanting to stay with the nuns who have helped her see that life does have meaning), returns to Hong Kong, has one last distasteful experience with Charlie whose wife has become the solid friend Kitty has always needed, and sets off for England. Once in Europe she receives a telegram that her mother has died and she returns to London to be with her sister and her distant father. Circumstances alter and Kitty finally finds in her lonely father the need to be loved and pledges to join him as he moves from London to a colonial position, awaiting the birth of a daughter who will be given all the love and training of equality Kitty has never known. Aside from Maugham's gift in creating characters so real we can visualize them, make them part of our reading lives, he also had the gift of descriptive writing about strange places that is as fine as any writer of his day. 'The morning drew on and the sun touched the mist so that it shone whitely like the ghost of snow on a dying star'. In describing the destination in China 'Mei-tan-fu with its crenellated walls was like the painted canvas placed on the stage in an old play to represent a city. The nuns, Waddington, and the Manchu woman who loved him, were fantastic characters in a masque and the rest, the people sidling along the tortuous streets and those who died, were nameless supers.' The novel is full of these absorbing pictures.
The Painted Veil is a tragic tale of unrequited love in marriage. The main character, Kitty, is a selfish, vain woman with very few redeeming qualities. This book is not a light read. If you enjoy classic literature along the lines of Wuthering Heights, you'll probably enjoy The Painted Veil. It certainly keeps you thinking long after it's done.
Kept me interested and absorbed to the end. There were some surprises and "twists" in the plot.
Had seen the movie and then stumbled upon the book at the bookstore. Was pleased to find that the movie had stayed fairly close to the story although the movie played up the romance between Kitty and her husband more than the book. I found the book hard to put down!
Everyone in my book club liked this book. This book is short--fewer than 300 pages--but it is a well-developed story with strong characters, lots of irony, and a satisfying conclusion, even though it wasn't a "happily ever after" ending. If you've seen the movie and liked it, you'll like the book, too. There are some significant differences between the book and movie. The characters in the book are more well-developed and honestly portrayed than in the movie. The movie's ending, too, was more forgiving than in the book. This book is a good choice for someone who has never read Maugham.
I became interested in this novel after watching the film version of the story staring Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, and Liev Shrieber. The movie was fanatatic, so I picked up the book. The story lines match closely, alhtough they have different endings. The plot is often melancholy, maintaining a disheartening yet hopeful attitude. The characters are human and the events are ones that were ordinary for life in the British Empire, its colonies, and China in the early 20th century. It's easy to read with short, engaging chapters. You won't want to put it down.
An older book made prominent again due to the film of the same name. I read it for a RL book group.It is very hard for me to give an objective review of the book, because I have seen the movie first. I loved the movie, it was soothing for both the eye and the ear. As I was reading I kept seeing the actors as the characters, I couldn't experience the book except through the prism of the film.I found the writing to flow, except for some horrid problems with sentence structure that seemed to come and go. The book delved more into the depths of the psychology of the characters. The film only hints at it, but has more story depth. There are scenes and parts of the story that don't exist in the book.It was a short quick read. The characters didn't grab me from the book, but interested me from the movie. They seem nastier in the book. The locations, whether in London, Hong Kong, or mainland China are very minor to the book. The story revolves around the characters, their relationships, their expectations, and social responsibilities. Even the cholera epidemic is just a backdrop. Kitty marries Walter because she has not been able to make a good marriage, and her expiration date is approaching. He is in her set, so she expects that he knows the rules and how to behave. Walter has the misfortune to love her, even though he sees her for the desperate, loveless, spoiled, shallow light weight she is. Walter doesn't play the game the way it is expected of him. He builds an illusion of her, and is devastated when she acts true to form, and not according to his plan.Kitty is unfaithful with Charlie, a prominent official in Hong Kong, who is a known playboy, even though he has a well-bred wife. Eventually Walter finds out and they are all on a collision course.Kitty and Walter are locked together, and both try to get the best of the other, while keeping up appearances, so as not to wreck their future, and current social standing.Walter's plan is to take her into a cholera infested area on mainland China, so the she will catch the disease and die, freeing him without a messy, public scandal.Kitty has no choice but to comply with his plans, unless she wishes to become a homeless, penniless outcast with no place and no future. In her time, and her place in society, she would have been an outcast if he divorced her.Fate intervenes and Kitty is the survivor, but not until she has undergone a rather cliched redemption. She sees herself clearly, and how shallow and mean she was. Of course Walter is punished for his evil intent (Kitty's death). Even his heroic work in the epidemic can't save him. Its the logic of the moral story that can't be denied.Charlie continues his way of life, made possible because he knows the rules and how to play the game. He doesn't expect real feeling, only his own pleasure with the least amount of bother. His wife supports him in this because there is no appealing alternative.The unborn child, of uncertain sex and parentage, carries the hope of future, since neither the parents nor grandparents are able to change.
This facile fiction, first published in 1925, reads very easily and particularly in its early part I found to be a page-turner. Kitty is an extremely shallow woman who marries a man she doesn't love and goes with him to HongKong, where she meets Townsend--an expert seducer of someone like Kitty.. What her husband does after he finds out is an interesting twist on such situations. The story is worked out so that I felt it was worthwhile reading--the first Maugham I have read in nearly 50 years. I may read some other stuff by him I have not.
This book is wonderfully written. Superbly flawed characters, with very little to like in any of them. As Kitty is taken to a small Chinese village riddled with Cholera, she finds herself while trying to find redemption for a sin against her husband. He has decided to "make her pay" by putting her in the path of certain death. His character, his innermost thoughts remain a mystery while we live inside of Kitty's head and see her grow up and into a better person. She is never perfect, and continues to make mistakes, but watching her try is fulfilling.As I said, extremely well written and very engaging. Descriptions of the people and the Chinese landscape are fascinating. Maugham takes you to places in China you likely know little about. Wonderful book.
Kitty Garstin, a beautiful, vapid but aging spinster in early 20th century Britain, hastily marries the shy bacteriologist Walter Fane, who is on leave from the East, in order to beat her younger sister's marriage to a baron. While in Singapore, Kitty has an affair with Charlie Townsend that Walter finds out about. Willing to divorce her quietly if Charlie agrees to divorce his wife, Kitty goes to Charlie believing that he loves her and will separate from his wife. She is crushed when he betrays her by not willing to seek a divorce. Kitty then returns back to Walter, who forces her to go into the middle of a cholera epidemic in China with the possible intention of killing her. While spending long hours by herself and volunteering at a nunnery she begins to understand herself and her errors. She eventually learns that she is pregnant, but not know whether or not Charlie or Walter is the father. Nonetheless, after Walter dies from cholera, she swears that if the child is a girl, then she will bring her up so as to not make the mistakes her mother made.Poignant, sweet, and sad, 'The Painted Veil' is a story about forgiveness and what it does to us when we don't forgive.
In the preface to this book Maugham explains how he conceived the storyline while on a trip to Italy. He was studying Italian and his tutor suggested they read Purgatorio in Dante's Divine Comedy. In it there is the following passage (which sounds much better in Italian I'm sure):"Pray, when you are returned to the world, and rested from the long journey," followed the third spirit on the second,"remember me, who am Pia. Siena made me, Maremma unmade me: this he knows who after betrothal espoused me with his ring."His tutor told him that Pia was a gentlewoman of Siena whose husband, suspecting her of adultery and afraid on account of her family to put her to death, took her down to his castle in the Maremma the noxious vapors of which he was confident would kill her. She didn't die soon enough so he had her thrown from a window. This story captured Maugham's imagination but until he travelled in the Orient he couldn't think how he could plausibly set it in a contemporary story. Maugham said it was his only novel that he started with a story instead of with a character.For me this explanation really added a lot to Kitty's story. But what really caught my attention was the fact that Maugham managed to live for 6 weeks in Italy on twenty pounds. Now, I realize this was a long time ago, pre World War I, but even Maugham felt it was quite an accomplishment.Set in England and Hong Kong in the 1920s, The Painted Veil is the story of the beautiful but love-starved Kitty Fane. When her husband discovers her adulterous affair, he forces her to accompany him to the heart of a cholera epidemic. Stripped of the British society of her youth and the small but effective society she fought so hard to attain in Hong Kong, she is compelled by her awakening conscience to reassess her life and learn how to love.I think Kitty changed quite a bit by the end of the book. Her experiences in Mei-tan-fu really shook her but I think the encounter with her married lover back in Hong Kong was what really transformed her.SPOILER ALERT(And speaking of that encounter, I think we would now call that rape. Kitty did not consent and in contemporary law that qualifies as rape.)
The Painted Veil is more of a psychological drama than Maugham's "biographical" books like The Razor's Edge, The Moon and Sixpence, and Cakes and Ale. A young extroverted woman has an affair in colonial Hong Kong. Her "boring" bacteriologist husband discovers the affair, and gives her the Hobson's choice of a socially unacceptable divorce or accompanying him on a potentially deadly mission to stop a cholera epidemic in a Chinese city. The characters are less finely drawn than in Maugham's other books, possibly because as he admits in the forward, he developed the idea for the plot first and created characters to fit. There is also less of Maugham's usual wit. I would characterize this as a coming-of-age novel with a unique plot twist.
I really enjoyed the book and then watched the DVD yesterday and agree with Heaven-Ali's comments about that version. It seems to be relatively faithful, both in plot and spirit. In my view, Maugham, more than Henry James, captures the nuances of human behaviour which really give us a lesson each time we read one of his works.
The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham was a quick read. I enjoyed the plot immensely, however the main character, Kitty, I was not impressed by. I believe the point of the story was to understand the process of change that we all go through in life - through the eyes of one annoying and ignorant young woman. I have little tolerance left for female leads who are neither independent nor strong willed, and perhaps that is due to the independence I myself have had to assert as a young woman growing up in the 21st century. I admire that in the story, Kitty came to see the error of her ways with Townsend - however her relapse upon her return to Hong Kong is appalling. I'd advise this book to a younger audience, as the life-lesson of humility is something that many adolescent readers could use.
Kitty hastily marries Walter, not because she loves him, but because her younger and less attractive sister has imminent prospects of getting married. Walter's work as a bacteriologist takes them to Hong Kong where Kitty feels Walter's work doesn't give them the social standing she thinks she deserves. Her disappointments with Walter lead to an affair and all the problems that brings to a marriage. Ultimately, Kitty matures as she is faced with issues more urgent than her social standing. The story was intriguing and characters believable for the most part. Despite the fact that Kitty is undeserving of any sympathy as she got herself into the mire she was in, I was hopeful of a happy outcome for her. As cold and ruthless as her husband was in his choice to force her hand in having her confront her lover, it was poetic justice. Heartless as it was for Walter to drag her to the cholera stricken village in China, I found myself cheering him on. The ending left me cold, however. The book should have ended with Kitty's encounter with her ex-lover--Kitty edified by lessons learned; but instead the author for some reason felt it necessary to add the appendage of reuniting with her father. He never seemed to care a bit for her in the beginnings of the book--and the kiss on the lips as if he was a lover? What was that all about? The author chose to leave her weak and dependent on her father yet again. Why not leave her valiant, strong, and wiser from her experiences?
Set in the 1920's, the story details the affair between Kitty and Charlie Townsend and what happens when her husband, Walter finds out about the adultery. It's so interesting to read about the morals and thoughts of a time period not so far back in history, and to realize how much things have changed in such a short time. I enjoyed Kitty's story and her transformation from her selfish, spoiled self into a self-aware individual. It was somewhat horrifying to me, though, the descriptions and treatment of other races and especially of the orphan referred to as "it". I guess just another way that things have changed so much. It also struck me that not that long ago everyone still had servants and people to do everything for them. All in all, it was enjoyable read for me.
A beautifully written account of Kitty Fane, a spoiled and vapid Englishwoman. Kitty is married off to Walter Fane, a shy bacteriologist who adores her. They relocate to China in the early 20th century. There Kitty begins an affair with the equally self-absorbed Charlie Townsend. Walter is crushed by the discovery and forces Kitty to accompany him to a remote Chinese village during a cholera epidemic. It is this second half of the novel where Kitty emerges from her prolonged selfish childhood into a mature, responsible adult. Though she comes to respect Walter enormously, she never quite falls in love with him. Rather than feeling cheated by not getting a neatly wrapped up happily ever after ending, the author gives a realistic portrayal of the complex adult emotions at play.
¿The Painted Veil¿ is the story of Kitty, a beautiful young woman who believes herself to be, without question, the most important person on earth. Her quiet, introvert husband Walter is a mystery to her, and the two of them share a very distant, weak bond. After Walter discovers that his wife is having an affair, he abruptly decides to move to a disease infested village in order to do medical work for the cholera outbreak there. Wrenched from the man that she believes she loves and forced to adjust to a dangerous new culture, Kitty is at a loss. However, as she begins befriending a group of nuns and aiding the sick, she begins to find herself not only changing, but also beginning to love China.I loved the simplistic tone of this book, which was natural and beautiful, never forced. However, I often got the odd feeling that this made me almost forget that this was all happening in China, instead of England. The feel of the book was very British, which isn't inplausible, since Kitty is British and is living in a British area. The tone of the book combined with the lack of a strong setting did not strike me as a good one. Of course, Kitty's world changes drastically when she moves from England to China. Her culture shock is mentioned, but Maugham simply tells us this, instead of giving examples of Chinese culture. The rich, exotic setting of Asia as seen by a spoiled, sheltered European girl was one that I was really looking forward to reading in this book, but it simply didn't happen. It would be very easy to have forgotten that any part of this book was ever set in China at all.But perhaps this was done because the setting was not what was most important about this tale. I would say that the main focus was the character building, which admittedly was quite good.Our main character, Kitty Fane, is a deplorable, silly, frivolous girl when the story began, but the reader gradually sees her grow into a wiser, less self centered woman. The author certainly suceeded in making the reader dislike her first character, but not be able to help themselves begin to like her toward the second half of the book.Kitty's husband, Walter, was my favorite character. Perhaps it was because he was so mysterious, or perhaps it was because I kept searching for little clues as to what he was feeling through-out the book, and drawing up possible assumptions. It was quite fun.Walter is completely unlike Kitty, and this fact combined with his shyness and quiet, reserved nature has created a void between them. Their marriage is shakily built on unspoken thoughts, silence, and puzzlement as Kitty wonders what on earth Walter is thinking. He isn't an easy character to figure out, but I really liked him. He struck me as a sensitive, caring man rather than the stoic tough guy.I noticed that Maugham must have meticulously and thoughtfully written this book, because of little details scattered through-out the story. I loved picking them out and wondering what they meant.For example, the scene where Waddington introduces Kitty to his Chinese wife. Unnecessary details about her being an exiled princess are thrown in, and while these bits of knowledge nor the scene itself have anything to do with the rest of the book, I think it was added in to show a contrast between Kitty and Walter. Waddington and his lover are worlds apart in differences, and yet they still understand and love each other, which is a stark contrast to Kitty's own marriage.Surprisingly, I noticed a slight gothic aspect to this story, light enough to just barely be noticed. Occasionally, a character would make an interesting comment or small paragraph of a speech about death, such as on pages 111 or 172. (I wrote down the page numbers while reading, but then returned the book to the library before I wrote this review.) A beautiful line that I remember was life being described as ¿a little smoke lost in the air.¿Though I cannot really say that a plot not going the way you'd prefer is a fault, the ou
I was deeply moved by this story of a frivolous young British woman who betrays her husband, a British colonial servant in China. His shocking response to her infidelity, and the changes it effects in her soul make for stimulating and thought-provoking reading. Maugham crawls into a young woman¿s mind, revealing her viewpoints and emotions, and tracing her evolution into a woman who, if not noble, is at least changed. The tale is sometimes cynical and occasionally humorous, certainly heartbreaking, but never sentimental and always honest. It¿s a sharp commentary on a search for humanity in a society that fails to encourages self-examination or the development of a conscience.
I seriously seriously loved this book. Out of nowhere too. I wouldn't have thought it would be the kind of thing I would like. And perhaps that right there is exactly why I LOVED it instead of just liking it a lot.Clearly, that tells you nothing really about whether or not you, reader, would like it as well. But too bad. I always just write for myself, it seems.
Kitty lives with her husband in Hong Kong, where he works as a doctor. When he catches her cheating on him, he volunteers to relocate to a small village stricken with cholera and she must go with him.
Kitty, a hot but aging English spinster, marries in haste and comes to regret it as her medical scientist husband ships her out to Hong Kong, where she, ah, gets involved in colonial society, only to be shanghaied by hubby once more, this time on a mission of mercy to a cholera-stricken city deep in the mainland.In spite of Maugham's occasionally clumsy prose, this is a book worth reading. It's typical of a Maugham novel in that its central character's spiritual quest provides its depth and driving energy. Although there are long sequences here comprising nothing but internal monologue, they're rarely boring or trite, and they sometimes rise to the level of real insight. Maugham infuses his characters' decisions, and the often-sordid messes they get themselves into, with emotional, psychological and spiritual significance. There's also some good historical and cultural texture here. Finally, The Painted Veil serves as a good introduction to Maugham's work in that you get a representative taste of his style and approach, but it's not too long (under 250 pages), unlike his massive signature works.
Good for book groups-discussion of nature of obsession.
A breathtaking story from beginning to end. The author, W. Somerset Maugham is a wonderful storyteller and does not disappoint the reader once during the novel. This is not a love story but a tale of one woman's journey on the road to redemption. The protagonist, Kitty Fane reminds me of a British version of Scarlett O'Hara. Kitty's journey is not a light hearted one. The reader's heart is constantly in a state of flux as the indecisive Kitty always leans towards the wrong choice. This is a timeless work that I believe will be in my top ten of beloved novels for the rest of my life. I highly suggest picking up a copy and enjoying the vivid world left behind by Maugham.
I read this book because I loved The Razor's Edge. This was a huge let down and did not even come close to The Razor's Edge. I love Maughan and his ability to write and describe scenes and emotions so vividly, but what this book lack was a good strong round character and strong turn of events. It was a huge disappointment