W Somerset Maugham
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!
I purchased this book from Half Price Books.