Book Review: The Painted Veil

The Painted Veil

W Somerset Maugham

Knopf Doubleday

256 pages

Kitty Fane is a character you love to hate.  Spoiled rotten, Kitty is used to getting what she wants, so she is in no hurry to marry.  That is, until her younger sister becomes engaged.  At that point, Kitty feels backed up against a wall, so she accepts the proposal of a bacteriologist named Walter Fane.  Walter is madly in love with Kitty, but she accepts the marriage as one of convenience.  The couple move to Hong Kong, where Kitty takes up with a debonair man by the name of Charles Townsend.

Walter discovers the affair, which delights Kitty because she is convinced that she can now shrug the bonds of her stifling marriage and run off into the sunset with Charles.  Unfortunately, Charles doesn’t have the same fantasy, and he breaks off the affair with Kitty.  Instead, she is forced to go off with her husband to deliver aid in a village suffering from cholera.

I have never read Maugham before, so I highly anticipated picking this one up.  The plot had me captivated from the start, especially because I love entitled brats, of which Kitty definitely was! I was astounded with the development of her character throughout the book.  It was completely realistic, because while Kitty became a responsible, empathetic adult, she still internalized her true feelings towards Walter, which never changed.  While she realized that her treatment of him wasn’t necessarily the nicest, she wasn’t able to love him in the way that he had hoped she would have.

I felt sympathy for Walter too, but not as much as I normally would.  He knew that Kitty was marrying him out of pure convenience, and he accepted her as his wife anyway, so I felt like his expectations of their marriage were a little too high.  If you choose to marry someone knowing that they don’t love you, can you expect a good marriage? Fidelity?

The Painted Veil resonated with me long after I finished it. It is a well constructed novel with believable circumstances and characters.  I am not sure where I’ll go next with Maugham, but I do have a copy of Mrs Craddock, so that one is definitely beckoning to me!

Other Reviews:

Book Journey

Love, Laughter, and a Touch of Insanity

Ready When You Are, CB

It’s All About Books

Rebecca Reads

Lakeside Musing

I purchased this book from Half Price Books.

15 Responses

  1. This is the second positive review I’ve read of this book. Sounds good, think I will have to add it to my tbr list.

  2. I saw the movie and bet the book is even better! Good review!

  3. Yay! I’m glad that you decided to review this one (and that I didn’t miss it). I felt many of the same things you did while reading this one–annoyance with Kitty but also feeling like her character was well developed and believable. I didn’t have a lot of sympathy for Walter either. I haven’t watched the movie but keep hearing good things about it. Maugham’s writing is beautiful, huh.

  4. I’m glad you liked this one! It’s one of my favorites, though I admit I feel far more favorably towards Walter than Kitty. :)

  5. I haven;t read this but have other of his books and have always enjoyed them it seems like a love triangle again which is a device he has used in his other books like of human bondage ,I do want to read this soon as I d like to watch film at some point and alway like reading book before the film ,all the best stu

  6. Someday, Maugham…someday.

  7. I loved this book – one of my favorites of 2008 and the very first book I talked about on my blog. I still need to read more Maugham. Hope you get a chance to see the movie.

  8. I can’t believe I’m saying this: I haven’t read this BUT I saw the movie…..It was a very compelling story and beautifully told. I think I shall read the book eventually. Thanks for the review!

  9. I really liked this book, too. It was a very interesting character study, and I enjoyed watching Kitty’s evolution.

  10. I have this lined up as my first Maugham, so it’s lovely to read your reaction. Thank you!

  11. Ooh I don’t know if I’d be able to stand Kitty!

  12. I am pretty sure that I have never read anything by Maugham, but your review of this one convinced me that I should try him out. This book sounds awesome, and I love stories about spoiled brats at times. Thanks for the great and detailed review. I will be looking to find this book!

  13. I meant to read Maugham this year, but time got away from me. This sounds like a good one to start with.

  14. I have this book on my wish list and the movie on my netflicks que. I really should read it. I especially like when a spoiled entitled character grows, like in The American Heiress. I may check our used book store for this.

  15. Like other commenters, I haven’t read the book, but I have seen the movie – and loved it!

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