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The Painted Veil

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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.

246 pages, Paperback

First published April 1, 1925

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About the author

W. Somerset Maugham

1,449 books4,986 followers
William Somerset Maugham was born in Paris in 1874. He spoke French even before he spoke a word of English, a fact to which some critics attribute the purity of his style.

His parents died early and, after an unhappy boyhood, which he recorded poignantly in Of Human Bondage, Maugham became a qualified physician. But writing was his true vocation. For ten years before his first success, he almost literally starved while pouring out novels and plays.

Maugham wrote at a time when experimental modernist literature such as that of William Faulkner, Thomas Mann, James Joyce and Virginia Woolf was gaining increasing popularity and winning critical acclaim. In this context, his plain prose style was criticized as 'such a tissue of clichés' that one's wonder is finally aroused at the writer's ability to assemble so many and at his unfailing inability to put anything in an individual way.

During World War I, Maugham worked for the British Secret Service . He travelled all over the world, and made many visits to America. After World War II, Maugham made his home in south of France and continued to move between England and Nice till his death in 1965.

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Profile Image for Jim Fonseca.
1,086 reviews7,013 followers
July 12, 2018
Wonderful writing and a good read from Maugham. I had not read him lately so I forgot how good a writer he is.

The basic story is of a beautiful young British woman who has “played the field” too long. She’s now 25 and her plainer, younger sister is engaged. In desperation the main character marries an MD bacteriologist who takes her to Hong Kong where he works as a scientist.

Here’s a wedding proposal for you:

She: “I think I like you very much. You must give me time to get used to you.”
He: “Then it’s yes?”
She: “I suppose so.”


He loves her; she finds him repulsive. She has an affair and after he finds out, he announces they are going into rural China where a cholera epidemic is raging. Is he trying to kill her? Himself? Both of them?

If you read this book, be sure to read this poem by Oliver Goldsmith written in 1766, An Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog. “The dog it was that died” becomes a key line in the story. (It’s on the web.)

Some lines I liked:

Of her husband: “He did not speak because he had nothing to say. But if nobody spoke unless they had something to say, Kitty reflected, with a smile, the human race would very soon lose the use of speech.”

Saddest lines in the book, from her husband: “I never expected you to love me, I didn’t see any reason that you should, I never thought myself very loveable. … What most husbands expected as a right I was prepared to receive as a favor.”

She: “Do you think that the soul is immortal?”
He: ”How should I know?”

On her breakup with the man who seduced her: “You really are the most vain and fatuous ass that it’s ever been my bad luck to run across.”

Of a woman’s restless eyes: “They moved from one part of you to another, to other persons in the room, and then back to you; you felt that she was criticizing you, summing you up, watchful meanwhile of all that went on around her, and that the words she spoke had no connection with her thoughts.”


And I think it’s fair to call this the moral of the story -- from a nun serving orphans and the dying in the cholera epidemic: “…the only thing that counts is love of duty; when love and duty are one, then grace is in you and you will enjoy a happiness which passes all understanding.”

In the preface the author even gives us some writing tips: “I think that this is the only novel I have written in which I started from a story rather than from a character. It is difficult to explain the relation between character and plot. You cannot very well think of a character in the void; the moment you think of him, you think of him in some situation, doing something…”

I really enjoyed this book.

Still from the 2006 movie version from movies.film-cine.com
Pulp edition by Pocketbooks 1946 from abebooks.co.uk
Profile Image for Will Byrnes.
1,296 reviews120k followers
July 1, 2021
This short masterpiece tells of love, betrayal, and a search for real meaning in life. Kitty is an attractive middle class Brit. The only real future for her is to marry well. But when she finds none of her suitors quite up to her hopes, and with her younger sister becoming engaged, she succumbs to the pressure and agrees to marry Walter, a man who adores her, but whom she finds boring. He takes her with him to Hong Kong where he works as a bacteriologist.

There is much here about class. One hero of the story is mother Superior, the head of a corps of nuns dedicated to caring for the sick and the poor. She had been brought up in a very wealthy family in France, but found a purpose in life beyond her personal needs. So too Walter, a shy biologist who risks life and limb to try to stem a cholera epidemic in the interior of China.

Maugham offers musings on religion without sounding excessively preachy, and offers a considered view on what makes life worth living. It is a joy to read and to watch as Kitty comes of age, learning from the people she encounters and ultimately sees past the veil of her life to some underlying truth. There are also comments here on the nature of westerners "doing good" in cultures considered lesser.

Walter's dying words are "It was the dog that died." This is a reference to the poem "An Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog" by Oliver Goldsmith. There are various interpretations to be had of the significance of this. The poem tells of a man who is bitten by a mad dog. Yet it is not the man who dies but the dog. In the novel, I believe that Walter sees himself as the mad dog who had dragged Kitty into a life-threatening situation, (foreshadowed by Maugham's prologue) biting her in a way, expecting that it would be a death sentence for her. Instead it was Walter who would pass, thus the irony. (Here is a link to the poem)

The title offers a nice field in which one can play the game interpretation. The title comes from a poem by Shelley, Lift Not the Painted Veil Which Those Who Live. The notions offered in the novel have a primary source here.
Profile Image for Candace.
1,176 reviews4,216 followers
March 29, 2017
It had been a long time since I read one of the classics. When I saw 'The Painted Veil' on sale at Audible.com, I thought it would be a nice change of pace. I wasn't wrong. This book proved to be far better than I expected.

'The Painted Veil' is set in England and China, taking place in the 1920's. It is a story of love, betrayal, revenge and redemption. I definitely wasn't prepared for some of the twists and turns that this story took, but I enjoyed every minute.

Kitty Fane moved to Hong Kong with her husband, Walter. An incredibly intelligent man, Walter is also socially awkward. He loves Kitty, but is rather unapproachable and aloof. Eventually, Walter grew on me, but he isn't the type of "warm-fuzzy" character that you bond with immediately. From the start, it is made very clear that he is head-over-heels in love with his wife.

Likewise, it is immediately evident that Kitty does not return the sentiment. Kitty is beautiful, vain and shallower than a kiddie pool. While Walter married for love, she makes not ifs, ands, or buts about the fact that she did not. It is clear that she married Walter solely so that she would not be one-upped by her younger sister's upcoming nuptials. In fact, Kitty seems to loathe Walter...at least, initially.

So, it was no big surprise that Kitty spent her days in the arms of the charming, and also married, Charles Townsend, while Walter was busy at work. No doubt, the dumb twit was just the most recent in what was bound to be a long line of extramarital conquests for Charles. Stupid Kitty believed that he was as in love with her as she was with him. Poor fool.

Unlike his wife, Walter has no illusions. He knew that Kitty didn't love him the way he loved her, but he wanted her so badly that he was willing to marry her anyway. He may have known that she didn't love him, but he did expect for her to be faithful.

When he discovers her adultery, he gives Kitty an option. He will grant her a divorce, if Charles will agree in writing to divorce his wife and marry Kitty immediately thereafter. Or, Kitty can accompany Walter into rural China where he has accepted a job assisting with the medical management of the cholera epidemic. Of course, Walter already knows exactly how this will work out. Kitty seems to be the only one surprised by Charles' duplicity.

I have to say that Walter had a special place in my heart. I love stories with darker themes and am drawn to anti-heroes. There was something so sinister and calculating about Walter that really drew me to him. Kitty was right to be afraid of her husband, even as she knew that he loved her. Walter was kind of a scary guy.

Arriving in the small village, it is immediately apparent that Kitty is being punished for her transgressions. Walter keeps her at a distance and is cold, at best. It becomes clear to Kitty that Walter is seeking revenge, using cholera to commit a passive murder/suicide. It was sick. It was twisted. It was goddamn brilliant!

The more time she spent in the village, the more Kitty came to see the error of her ways. For the first time, Kitty grew to appreciate her husband and even admire him. Though she never really fell in love with him, she finally felt shame and remorse for her actions.

As much as I disliked Kitty at the onset of this book, she grew on me. I came to see her as an imperfect human, a product of her privileged upbringing and societal expectations. Similarly, I came to see some of Walter's flaws. He wasn't entirely a victim as I believed, early on.

I can't say that there is one "moral of the story" that really stands out to me with the book. There were many. This book was a beautiful, albeit heartbreaking, account of the human experience.

Although this isn't my usual type of story, I enjoyed it immensely. There were plenty of twists and turns along the way that I didn't see coming. Early on, I thought I had it all worked out in my head, but I was sooo wrong. This story did not pan out the way I had envisioned, but it was strangely fitting for this couple.

Overall, I thought that this was a wonderful book. It isn't a particularly happy or uplifting read, but it was great in and of it's own accord. This is one that will definitely hang with me for a while. I highly recommend it.
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,964 reviews294k followers
January 27, 2019
This was so good.

The Painted Veil, first published in 1925, is now considered a classic. That fact - combined with the cover, description and the reviews - had me switching into classic-reading mode. I tend to approach classics with a different frame of mind and a greater tolerance for slow-moving plots, complex language, and characters I cannot relate to that much.

As it happens, I need not have bothered.

This book hooked me from the very first page where Kitty is caught in the bedroom with her lover and it kept me interested right the way through. From the delving into Kitty's recent past and her mother's insistence that she marry as soon as possible, to Kitty's relationship with an intelligent and shy man who genuinely loves her but she cannot love back, to the middle of a cholera epidemic that challenges Kitty's views on life and love. Her character development is astounding; how she goes from being an annoyingly fickle and selfish young women, to one who sees the world in a new light and gains a certain wisdom that is only achieved through facing and overcoming hardship.

Much about this story reminds me of Gone With the Wind (though, thankfully, not the length). It's the same idea of an immature and self-centred young woman being unable to appreciate the love of the man by their side until it's too late. They would prefer to fawn over a married man who will never treat them seriously, and yet they are so shocked to discover that their beauty cannot get them everything they want. Both Kitty and Scarlet are extremely spoiled and vain, so used to getting what they want that they are unprepared when life suddenly treats them unkindly. But they do both manage to change and grow stronger as well.

It's also a very sad novel. I find it sad how Walter was willing to overlook the fact that Kitty didn't like him at all just so he could have the chance to love her. He was so sweet and kind. The ending (well, the bit just before) is also sad, but necessary in order for Kitty to become the person she does.

I think Kitty's state of mind at the end is an important statement about women at this pivotal point in history. Women have got the vote, but still very few options in life. Here, Kitty learns an important lesson-- that it is far more beneficial for everyone if girls are raised to be open-minded and independent human beings, instead of just men's wives. Overall, this is a very interesting exploration of people and the relationships between men and women - it definitely won't be the last I read by W. Somerset Maugham.

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Profile Image for Jeffrey Keeten.
Author 3 books248k followers
February 12, 2020
”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 window turn also. 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.”

When Kitty accepts the marriage proposal of Dr. Walter Fane, it sets off a chain of events that land them both in the middle of a cholera epidemic in Mei-Tan-Fu, China. Kitty is quickly leaving behind her debuttante years and is fast approaching an old maid status. It isn’t for lack of marriage proposals. She has plenty. She just enjoys being the center of attention for all men, rather than being confined to the servitude of one. When her younger sister, the much less attractive sister, lands a baronet, the pressure on her to be married becomes very real.

Dr. Walter Fane is not a fool, but he is a complete fool when it comes to his love of this beautiful bobble of girl who has never had to have a serious thought in her life. Even intelligent people can be blind in the ways of love. He knows Kitty doesn’t love him. He knows why she is desperately marrying him, and yet he must have believed that, given time, he can convince her that he is worth loving.

Kitty can not respect his love for her. Infatuation has always come easily for her. She has smoldering eyes and a lithe figure that drives men to distraction. ”What was it in the human heart that made you despise a man because he loved you?” That has been a question that has been asked for hundreds of years, if not thousands. What I have ascertained from the minefield of women that I’ve known is that a woman must not like herself very much to despise a man who loves her. It is sad that she considers him to be a fool to marry such a woman as she.

Kitty accepts his proposal impulsively. She despises his fawning attentions. She has therefore never invested any emotion or even thought into the relationship. He takes her to Hong Kong where he works as a bacteriologist. There she meets Charlie Townsend, who intuitively senses the vulnerability in their relationship. He is charming, fit, and knows the right string of words to whisper in a silly, unhappy girl’s ear. Kitty is a fool, and she can’t for the life of her understand why Walter can’t see it.

The resulting scandal, which starts with the turning of the white china knob on the door, turns out to be an embarrassing affair for all parties involved, as these things tend to do. Walter gives Kitty a choice, but as it turns out, she has only one choice, which is to follow him to Mei-Tan-Fu. ”It means death. Absolutely certain death.”

Whenever I pick up a W. Somerset Maugham book, I know I am in for a whirlwind ride fraught with betrayal, emotional upheaval, human frailty, selfishness, and aspects of malice. He explores the dark corners of our lives that are whispered about in alcoves at parties, and in shadowed doorways off of street corners. Those things about us that we hope no one knows, but we have a fearful inclination, spurred by our own guilt that everyone knows. The best solution to any scandal, in my opinion, is to brazen it out and wait for another scandal to come along to move your problems from the front page to the back page of the gossip mill. One must screw up occasionally so that everyone else feels better about themselves. It would be rather rude to be perfectly good all the time.

A masterpiece exploring the frivolous ways in which lives can be ruined.

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
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January 9, 2016
The original review was deleted by GR. This book is about the time when society women didn’t work, especially not in the hot and fetid colonies, and this was set in Hong Kong. They sat at home and painted their nails and dreamed of love in the afternoon and sometimes they did it too. Kitty did, she had an affair and her husband found out. He was a good man, as she was to find out, but once crossed, his soul was dark with thoughts of the ultimate revenge – death, either socially or in reality.

He gave his wife a choice, divorce, which would mean the end of her career as a socialite with pretty party dresses, passionate lovers and invitations to all the best balls in town. Or, if she could persuade her married lover to divorce his wife, he would allow that. But the married lover, typical of the species ditched the paramour and kept the wife. So it was either the social ignominy of divorce or she could go with him, a doctor, to sort out a cholera epidemic on mainland China where she might catch and die of the disease herself. She went.

And eventually, her character grew and her soul was transformed as she found a higher calling in nursing children and admiration for her well-respected if unlovable husband. Pregnant, she told him she didn’t know if it was his or her lover’s but it mattered not, because the husband got written out at this point in a touching deathbed scene.

She returns to Hong Kong, now lodging with her previous paramour and his wife, a heroine and tragic widow, but blots her copy book briefly by one more go-round with the ex-lover. Disgusted with herself she returns to the UK and finding her mother has died, sets herself up to support her father and accompanies him to the Caribbean island where he is to become the resident Chief Justice.

There she will dedicate herself to her father and to bringing up the as-yet unborn child. And that’s where the book ends.

What the book doesn’t say is that the ex-pat society in the Caribbean is every bit as entertaining as Hong Kong and there is a great deal less poverty and sickness. Less white women gives rarity value even unto the sullied, and in any case, less attention to social mores is paid in tropical climes. I’m sure she got back up on that social roundabout again, but that’s for our imagination.

A good book, an odd book for its time giving a lot of power and play to women’s sexuality, but dividing both the men and women into good/celibate (more or less) and sexually active (bad, bad bad). I haven’t seen the film of it, but it’s ideal for a modern remake with a hot young star and plenty of sex scenes.
Profile Image for Perry.
632 reviews517 followers
January 13, 2019
Resentment's Presentiment

The time will come / When you'll be blue / Your cheatin' heart will tell on you.
Hank Williams, 1952

You'll look for me but baby I'll be gone.
This is all I gotta say to you woman: Your time is gonna come

Led Zeppelin, 1969

The English word "resent" or "resentment" comes from the Old French resentir, meaning to "feel again, feel in turn" (13c.) That is, to replay, feeling again and again, thoughts and emotions arising from a past negative event. For example, wife learns husband was unfaithful, then envisions hubs and his lover in bed doing really naughty things, and laughing at and ridiculing her, visions she projects in her mind's eye, each time with sensational new variations, daily over the following months so that these scenes transform into a warped and sickening reality to her.

The Painted Veil is Somerset Maugham's calamitous case study on the travesties begotten by a faithless, heartless wife who is--frankly--gullible to the charms of a cocksure cad, and indifferent to her caring cuckold's emotional pain and, at least at first, to his poisonous resentment.
The worst, the least curable hatred is that which has superseded deep love. Euripides

Kitty Fane ruthlessly ridicules her husband, Dr. Walter Fane, to her lover as she dreams of marrying this cad she can't see is playing her. Though the husband Walter loves Kitty still, after he finds out of the affair, his jaundiced need to get even goads him into taking her on his mission to rural China, into the heart of the cholera epidemic.

Prior to departing for China, he asks her:
"How can I be reasonable? To me our love was everything and you were my whole life. It is not very pleasant to realize that to you it was only an episode."

"I know that you're selfish, selfish beyond words, and I know that you haven't the nerve of a rabbit, I know you're a liar and a humbug, I know that you're utterly contemptible. And the tragic part is'--her face was on a sudden distraught with pain--'the tragic part is that notwithstanding I love you with all my heart."
Nonetheless, off they go. Dr. Fane works selflessly around the clock to save the cholera-afflicted. Kitty awakens late to the fallacy of the fornical fantasia and to the spinelessness of her muscled lover, who (check it...) was only interested in getting a lil sompin sompin. She undergoes a personal transformation among all the sickness surrounding her in this foreign land, finding her moral compass, and seeking forgiveness from her husband, as resentment consumes him.

Maugham couldn't have found a more perfect setting for exploring the most disastrous of tragedies to a living marriage. Maugham sets up a plethora of symbols on the after-effects of infidelity to contrast with society's notions of a husband and wife.

A super potent novel.
Profile Image for Orsodimondo.
2,154 reviews1,694 followers
August 28, 2021

Kitty e Walter Fane nel primo adattamento cinematografico del 1934 hanno il volto di Greta Garbo e Herbert Marshall. Ilregista è Richard Boleslawski. Le riprese, come di consueto all’epoca, sono essenzialmente in teatro di posa, e quindi, scenografie tutte ricostruite in studio.

Maugham aveva fama di cattivissimo, di cinico, la sua biografa Selina Hastings lo definì “violento come un tumore maligno”: si narra che il ritratto che gli fece il pittore Graham Sutherland lo abbia messo così a disagio da nascondere l’opera, tenerla privata e non mostrarla a nessuno.
Magari era solo invidia per il fatto che coi suoi libri era diventato molto, molto ricco.

La divina Garbo è la prima Kitty. Il romanzo era uscito nel 1925.

In questa bella storia mi pare che abbia però lasciato da parte ogni forma di cinismo: il ritratto di Kitty è struggente, un personaggio bellissimo con la sua fragilità, la sua frivolezza e leggerezza, la sua schiavitù alle regole della ‘convenienza’, che nel procedere del racconto, di fronte all’improvvisa situazione di pericolo cui il marito la sottopone, trova un magnifico riscatto e solleva quel velo dipinto “che i viventi chiamano Vita” (il riferimento è alla poesia Lift Not the Painted Veil di Shelley che regala il titolo al romanzo, il cui verso principale è riportato in epigrafe).

La seconda versione cinematografica è diretta da Ronald Neame. Alla regia collaborò anche Vincent Minnelli che però non compare nei crediti. Kitty è Eleanor Parker.

L’intera trama prende spunto da un altro celebre riferimento letterario: da quella Pia de’ Tolomei che Dante incontra nel Purgatorio. Questi i versi del poeta fiorentino:
Ricorditi di me, che son la Pia;
Siena mi fé, disfecemi Maremma;
salsi colui che 'nnanellata pria
disposando m'avea con la sua gemma.

Ecco, invece, come li racconta Maugham:
Ersilia mi disse che Pia era una gentildonna senese; il marito, sospettandola di adulterio e non osando metterla a morte per timore dei familiari, la portò in un suo castello in Maremma nella speranza che i mefitici vapori del luogo provvedessero alla bisogna; ma poiché ella tardava a morire si spazientì e la fece gettare dalla finestra.

Il secondo adattamento cinematografico è del 1957 e ha il titolo di “Il settimo peccato”. Walter è interpretato da Bill Travers e l’azione è spostata al secondo dopoguerra.

Maugham entra subito nel vivo e poi ci ricapitola gli antecedenti. Si comincia con la scena d’adulterio, Kitty sta incontrando il suo amante, Charlie Townsend, un funzionario statale inglese, quando sente che qualcuno sta tentando di aprire la porta della sua stanza da letto e teme che sia suo marito Walter.
Poi apprendiamo che Kitty, bella e attraente, per timore di restare senza marito, visto che anche sua sorella minore s’era già sposata, accetta la proposta di un uomo che non ama, Walter Fane, un medico batteriologo di carattere freddo e apparentemente insensibile.

Il terzo adattamento è del 2006e recupera il titolo originale. In regia John Curran.

Lo stesso Walter mi pare abbia un percorso che lo rende molto più interessante di quello che lo stereotipo del medico tutto dedito al lavoro, freddo imperscrutabile insensibile: per quanto ossessionato dal decoro, quando scopre la storia tra sua moglie e Townsend è disposto a divorziare se l’amante è pronto a fare altrettanto per poi sposarsi con Kitty – in alternativa le impone di seguirlo nell’interno del paese, da Hong Kong a Mei-Tan-Fu, a combattere un’epidemia di colera. Non un posto per una signora, ma l’occasione di fare una grande esperienza umana.
Esperienza che infatti induce il cambiamento radicale di Kitty.
Certo, si può interpretare la cosa come forma di vendetta diretta a fare di Kitty una nuova Pia de’ Tolomei. Ma io preferisco la prima ipotesi.

Kitty e Walter sono Naomi Watts e Edward Norton. Il film è effettivamente girato in Cina.

Townsend, ovviamente, si tiene stretto il suo matrimonio e non è affatto disposto a mettere tutto in discussione per dare seguito ‘legale’ alla sua scappatella con Kitty.
Quando Kitty rientra a Hong Kong dopo la scioccante esperienza di Mei-Tan-Fu e rincontra l’amante lo apostrofa:
Per favore vattene - singhiozzò - Questa è l'unica cosa che puoi fare per me adesso. Ti odio e ti disprezzo. Walter valeva dieci volte più di te e io ero troppo stupida per accorgermene. Va' via. Va' via.
Non ha imparato ad amare suo marito – come invece Hollywood preferisce farci credere – ma ha imparato a stimarlo e rispettarlo. E ha comunque vissuto una grandiosa esperienza umana. Ed è pronta a dedicare la sua vita a far sì che quella della figlia sia meno vuota e superficiale di quello che è stata la sua di prima.

Profile Image for Mohammed-Makram.
1,396 reviews3,113 followers
December 23, 2022

الخيانة ذنب ثقيل لا يطهرها الا العمل الجماعى و انكار الذات و مساعدة الغير حتى لو كان فى أرض الوباء حيث نتطهر من ذنوبنا بوضع أرواحنا على كف الرحمن
البعض منا يبحث عن الطريق في الأفيون و البعض في الله. البعض منا في الويسكي و البعض في الحب.
كان ألمها عظيما لدرجة أنها كانت تصرخ بعلو صوتها. لم تكن تعرف أبدا أن المرء يمكن أن يعاني الكثير. و سألت نفسها بشدة: ماذا فعلت لأستحق كل ذلك؟
قالت كيتي بابتسامة: إنه لسوء حظ كبير أن يكون لديك قلب!
قطرتان صغيرتان في ذلك النهر الذي تدفق بصمت نحو المجهول. قطرتان صغيرتان كانتا لهما الكثير من التفرد و لكنهما في الوقت نفسه كانا جزءا لا يمكن تمييزه من الماء.
Profile Image for Luís.
1,864 reviews522 followers
February 6, 2023
The film "The Painted Veil", taken from the novel, was a dazzling one, and to prolong the magic, I threw myself into the story from the last frame. At this point, conquered by the film, the quality of the images, the beauty of the landscapes, and the interpretation of a rare sensitivity by Naomi Watts and Edward Norton (Ah, this unforgettable scene where the disunited couple finally meet again and find their way back to life. matrimonial bed), not to mention the exceptional music of Alexandre Desplat. In short, I had set the bar very high for the novel, and I did not hide a slight, minimal disappointment.
But the novel brings another dimension to the state of mind of the two heroes. And even if the third, namely the lover (beautiful interpretation of Liev Schreiber), the bottom of their nature, and all the elements that very gradually, in this hostile context, will bring them to understand each other, finally, talk to each other, find each other.
Profile Image for Robin.
484 reviews2,626 followers
December 12, 2022
Sometimes we find the film adaptation of the book first. That's what happened to me, with W. Somerset Maugham's story of an ill-fated marriage, The Painted Veil. I saw the film many moons ago.

So in chapter one, when Kitty, a married woman, and Charlie, her lover, fearfully watch the (locked) doorknob to her bedroom turn, this image came to mind:

And later, I waited for this beautiful moment of recognition between estranged husband and wife, in cholera-infested China:

I waited, but didn't quite get that, though. Turns out, surprise-surprise, the film adaptation is much more "Hollywood" than Maugham's book. Which isn't a bad thing for the film, actually, especially if you happen to have a crush on Edward Norton, as I do.

What I learned in the reading of this wonderful short novel is that the film version is much more about the couple's relationship, whereas the book is much more about Kitty's coming of age.

Kitty marries Walter not out of love but necessity. He's a bacteriologist, a sensitive and serious man. Kitty, a silly society girl, is bored by him, and is unfaithful. Maugham does a splendid job of drawing us into the story and of showing us the three points of the love triangle. He also shows us how love, when damaged, can quickly twist into something else altogether. The story shoots out of the bedroom into a terrifying, deadly pandemic.

It's been decades since I read Maugham last, and I was astonished at how modern this almost 100 year old story reads. The chapters are short and inviting; the writing is a pleasure to dive into. I noticed how his work isn't particularly stylized like other writers of his time (he often begins a chapter with the word "but"). However, his ability to write compelling, flawed characters, and present us with searing intimate moments kept me glued to the page.

So, read the book, to watch a girl become a mature woman. And watch the film, if not for Edward Norton, for a gorgeous, tragic love story.
Profile Image for Joe Valdez.
485 reviews812 followers
August 18, 2018
The Painted Veil is W. Somerset Maugham on speed dial. Published in 1925, it falls between two masterworks I've read from the prolific British novelist and playwright: Of Human Bondage in 1915 and The Razor's Edge in 1944, and while providing snapshots of well-developed characters and a compelling story that spans the globe, it's a triumph of telling over showing and in many ways feels more like the treatment for a movie than it does a complete novel. But Maugham in a slower gear is more compelling than ninety-five percent of fiction out there.

The story gets off to an exciting start in the city of Hong Kong, where a British national named Kitty Fane is interrupted from post-coital afternoon bliss with a charismatic Assistant Colonial Secretary named Charlie Townsend when she hears someone in her house. Incredulous that it could be Kitty's husband, who is supposed to be at work, the couple watch as the white china knobs of the windows slowly turn from someone trying to get in. Townsend reassures Kitty that it was probably a servant, but she is alarmed when her lover tells her that he left his topee downstairs. Questioning her boy servant, Kitty learns that her husband Walter was indeed in the house.

Moving back in time two years to London, Kitty Garstin is a footloose bachelorette in South Kensington. Her father is a solicitor of moderate ambition while her mother is an unabashed social climber dripping with it. Kitty has inherited the beauty and charm that her younger sister Doris lacks and rather than accept her numerous marriage proposals, takes her time in choosing her future. At twenty-five, she is stunned when eighteen-year-old Doris becomes engaged to a prosperous surgeon. In a panic, Kitty agrees to marry Walter Fane, also a doctor, but a painfully shy, inhibited one Kitty is vaguely familiar with socially, despite the fact that he seems to be in love with her.

He was not her type at all. He was short, but not thick-set, slight rather and thin; dark and clean-shaven, with very regular, clean-cut features. His eyes were almost black, but not large, they were not very mobile and they rested on objects with a singular persistence; they were curious, but not very pleasant eyes. With his straight, delicate nose, his fine brow, and well-shaped mouth he ought to have been good-looking. But surprisingly enough he was not. When Kitty began to think of him at all she was surprised that he should have such good features when you took them one by one. His expression was slightly sarcastic and now that Kitty knew him better she realized that she was not quite at ease with him. He had no gaiety.

Walter is a bacteriologist who has a job in Hong Kong he's leaving for in the autumn. Kitty has little idea what that means, but knows that with Doris marrying in November, Kitty could be on her way to the Far East while her sister's lavish wedding is taking place. Two years later, Kitty is pleased by Walter's doting on her with gifts or attention, but also bemused, with few if any other husbands she observes deferring so politely to their wives. Walter shuns social events and has few friends. Kitty is bored in Hong Kong until she meets Charlie Townsend at a tea party and is instantly charmed by the tall, dark, handsome and married politician.

Scheduling their trysts upstairs of a curio shop, Kitty ultimately invites Charlie into her own bed while Walter should be at work. Charlie reassures her that even if Walter suspects infidelity, the doctor will be too cowardly to admit it. He pledges to stand by Kitty. Unable to take the guilt much longer, she's finally summoned by her husband for a talk. He announces that he's accepted a job at Mei-tan-fu, on a tributary of the Western River, where a cholera outbreak has left the town without a foreign doctor. Walter expects Kitty to accompany him and if she refuses, intends to file his petition for divorce, believing only a humiliation would compel Charlie Townsend to leave his wife and marry Kitty.

Walter agrees to consent to Kitty's wish for a divorce if Mrs. Townsend assures him that she'll divorce Charlie and that he'll marry Kitty within two weeks. Kitty runs to Charlie and implores him to leave his wife, but with his reputation at stake, he's in favor of her traveling with Walter, declaring that if she takes precautions, the cholera epidemic can be survived. Certain her husband intends for her to die, Kitty is transported to Mei-tan-fu with him overland on chairs. Arriving at the town, Kitty befriends the boyishly droll British customs agent Waddington and ultimately, the graceful Mother Superior in charge of the convent where the orphaned and sick are cared for.

Kitty, impressed she hardly knew why, observed the grave lady who asked her these amiable questions. She was dressed in white and the only color on her habit was the red heart that burned on her breast. She was a woman of middle age, she might have been forty or fifty, it was impossible to say, for there were few wrinkles on her smooth, pale face, and you received the impression that she was far from young chiefly from the dignity of her bearing, her assurance, and the emaciation of her strong and beautiful hands. The face was long, with a large mouth and large, even teeth; the nose, though not small, was delicate and sensitive; but it was the eyes, under their thin black brows, which gave her face its intense and tragic character. They were very large, black, and though not exactly cold, by their calm steadiness strangely compelling. Your first thought when you looked at the Mother Superior was that as a girl she must have been beautiful, but in a moment you realized that this was a woman whose beauty, depending on character, had grown with advancing years. Her voice was deep, low, and controlled, and whether she spoke in English or in French she spoke slowly. But the most striking thing about her was the air she had of authority tempered by Christian charity; you felt in her the habit of command. To be obeyed was natural to her, but she accepted obedience with humility. You could not fail to see that was deeply conscious of the authority of the church which upheld her. But Kitty ha da surmise that notwithstanding her austere demeanor she had for human frailty a human tolerance; and it was impossible to look at her grave smile when she listened to Waddington, unabashed, talking nonsense, without being sure that she had a lively sense of the ridiculous.

While reading The Painted Veil I was reminded of a charcoal sketch by a great artist, stripped of color or tone and focusing on something much more specific than the vibrant paintings I've enjoyed by that same artist. Maugham is remarkably skilled at unraveling stories that carry his characters across vast distances while never losing sight that the inner journey is what's important. Here, he explores the education of a bride who having never learned what integrity, honor or love are has to learn them when she leaves home. The characters are well-developed and both the language and dialogue Maugham uses to reveal them are a pleasure.

The first time she was alone with Waddington she brought the conversation around to Charlie. Waddington had spoken of him on the evening of their arrival. She pretended that he was no more than an acquaintance of her husband.

"I never cared for him," said Waddington. "I've always thought him a bore."

"You must be very hard to please," returned Kitty, in the bright, chaffing way she could assume so easily. "I suppose he's far and away the most popular man in Hong Kong."

"I know. That is his stock in trade. He's made a science of popularity. He has a gift of making every one he meets feel that he is the one person in the world he wants to see. He's always ready to do a service that isn't any trouble to himself, and even if he doesn't do what you want he manages to give you the impression that it's only because it's not humanly possible."

"That is surely an attractive trait."

"Charm and nothing but charm at last grows a little tiresome, I think. It's a relief then to deal with a man who isn't quite so delightful but a little more sincere. I've known Charlie Townsend for a good many years and once or twice I've caught him with the mask off--you see, I never mattered, just a subordinate official in the Customs--and I know that he doesn't in his heart give damn for any one in the world but himself."

Kitty, lounging easily in her chair, looked at him with smiling eyes. She turned her wedding-ring round and round her finger.

"Of course, he'll get on. He knows all the official ropes. Before I die I have every belief that I shall address him as Your Excellency and stand up when he enters the room."

"Most people think he deserves to get on. He's generally supposed to have a great deal of ability."

"Ability? What nonsense! He's a very stupid man. He gives you the impression that he dashes off his work and gets it through from sheer brilliancy. Nothing of the kind. He's as industrious as a Eurasian clerk."

"How has he got the reputation for being so clever?"

"There are many foolish people in the world and when a man in a rather high position puts on no frills, slaps them on the back, and tells them he'll do anything in the world for them, they are very likely to think him clever. And then of course, there's his wife. There's an able woman if you like. She has a good sound head and her advice is always worth taking. As long as Charlie Townsend's got her to depend on he's pretty safe never to do a foolish thing, and that's the first thing necessary for a man to get on in Government service. They don't want clever men; clever men have ideas, and ideas cause trouble; they want men who have charm and tact and who can be counted on never to make a blunder. Oh, yes, Charlie Townsend will get to the top of the tree all right."

"I wonder why you dislike him."

"I don't dislike him."

"But you like his wife better?" smiled Kitty.

"I'm an old-fashioned man and I like a well-bred woman."

"I wish she were well-dressed as well as well-bred."

"Doesn't she dress well? I never noticed."

"I've always heard that they were a devoted couple," said Kitty, watching him through her eyelashes.

"He's very fond of her. I will give him that credit. I think that is the most decent thing about him."

"Cold praise."

"He has his little flirtations, but they're not serious. He's much too cunning to let them go to such lengths as might cause him inconvenience. And of course he isn't a passionate man; he's only a vain one. He likes admiration. He's fat and forty now, he does himself too well, but he was very good-looking when he first came to the Colony. I've often heard his wife chaff him about his conquests."

"She doesn't take his flirtations very seriously?"

"Oh, no, she knows they don't go very far. She says she'd like to be able to make friends of the poor little things who fall to Charlie; but they're always so common. She says it's really not very flattering to her that the women who fall in love with her husband are so uncommonly second-rate."

What holds The Painted Veil back from being perfect is how slight a volume it is. Maugham, who wrote twenty novels and twenty-five plays, almost teases the reader with how lush and epic a story he could've written before rushing through it with a great deal of telling whether than showing. It's never very clear what Walter's work is or his relationship with the Chinese military, who have the town under marital law. Another way of looking at the novel is that the author is more focused on the inner journey of the characters, not travelogue, and gives the reader enough keys to unlock those doors themselves.

W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) has had his work translated to film almost as many times as Stephen King going back to 1917 and The Painted Veil has been filmed twice. In 1934, MGM made it a vehicle for Greta Garbo, who played an Austrian rather than British bride named Katrin Koerber Fane. In 2006, a sensual and haunting adaptation starred Naomi Watts as Kitty Fane, Edward Norton as Walter Fane, Liev Schreiber as Charlie Townsend, Toby Jones as Waddington and Diana Rigg as Mother Superior. The screenplay by Ron Nyswaner took greater effort to explore both China and the Kitty-Walter relationship than even Maugham had. It's a very overlooked movie.
Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,401 reviews11.7k followers
January 22, 2021
So, let me summarize it now, in 2021 - a clever, passionate man falls in love with a pretty but fickle woman who, he knows, will never understand him or appreciate his worth, then he basically buys her, because she has to be supported somehow, and there are no other takers. And then, when she takes a lover who she is actually attracted to, he forces her to go to the cholera-ridden country so that they both will die.

There is still some interesting character development in Kitty, but I am not as enamored of this book as I used to be. It is much messier than I remember, and all the colonialist, xenophobic stuff is off-putting.

I think I'd definitely prefer the movie version now.
There is something infinitely fascinating to me about stories like this - a clever, passionate man falling in love with a pretty but fickle woman who, he knows, will never understand and appreciate his worth, and yet, he can't resist.

I still can't decide if I like the novel or the latest movie adaptation more.

The movie gives food to my romantic what-could-have-been fantasies.

“I want a girl because I want to bring her up so that she shan't make the mistakes I've made. When I look back upon the girl I was I hate myself. But I never had a chance. I'm going to bring up my daughter so that she's free and can stand on her own feet. I´m not going to bring a child into the world, and love her, and bring her up, just so that some man may want to sleep with her so much that he's willing to provide her with board and lodging for the rest of her life.”
Profile Image for Tea Jovanović.
Author 410 books674 followers
December 9, 2020
Jedna od meni najdražih Momovih knjiga... Potpuno zanemarena kod domaćih izdavača... Po ovom romanu snimljen je i divan film... Pokušavala sam godinama da animiram srpske izdavače da ga objavljuju, ali oni su jurili samo hitove sa bestseler lista... Ali ne gubim nadu... :)

Potrajalo je... Obezbeđen su prava za srpsko izdanje kod uglednog izdavača... knjiga je data na prevod maestru Aleksandru Milajiću... Objavljivanje dogodine... :)

Mogu sam da dodam, posle završenog uredničkog čitanja, da je prevod sjajan, da sam uživala i da po prvi put čitam Moma u prevodu a da zvuči kao Mom u originalu... Bravo za Milajića! Nadam se, i potrudiću se, da uživamo u još nekom njegovom prevodu Moma... :)
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,868 reviews16.5k followers
October 1, 2019
The anatomy and consequences of an affair.

First published in 1925, this documents the sad and short marriage of Kitty and Walter and how Kitty’s affair with Charles Townsend changed all of their lives dramatically.

Maugham’s ability to convey emotion and the intricacies of relationship dynamics borders on the uncanny. The characterization is three dimensional and his omnipresent narration, describing minute thoughts and responses, is superb.

Kitty was a promising debutante at 18 but an increasing embarrassment at 25, causing her match making and ambitious mother great frustration and when younger sister gets engaged, she is close to desperation. Never hurting for suitors, just never the right one, she chooses Walter, a young biologist stationed in Hong Kong, as this seems the perfect solution to her dilemma.

Once in Hong Kong she meets Townsend, a married colonial official, and their torrid love affair commences.

Maugham’s portrayal of Kitty and her anguishing journey towards self-realization and atonement is hypnotic. We follow her from self-absorbed young girl, to selfish and delusional adulteress, to guilt ridden and forgiveness seeking wife. Never one for the overly simplistic, Maugham mixes in complications and complexities to Kitty’s emotional state to make this more realistic. In Townsend, Maugham has created a truly despicable villain, but also very believable.

This also explores the themes of duty and family. What allegiances do we owe to family and when personal aspirations conflict with what society expects, what do we do? Maugham not only works this out between Kitty and Walter but also between Kitty and her parents, and the scene between her and her father is particularly poignant.

A very good read.

Profile Image for Nataliya Yaneva.
165 reviews325 followers
January 4, 2021
Когато петите на удавника докоснат пясъчното дъно, той неистово се бори да достигне отново повърхността. Когато пред теб няма път, започваш да се оглеждаш за път по-трескаво от всякога. Когато си достигнал до края, се завръщаш към началото.

„Цветният воал“ е роман за проглеждането. Стилът на Моъм тук е ефирен, прецизен и лаконичен. Липсата на излишна орнаментика и допълнителни безсъдържателни линии и описания още повече откроява болезнеността на сюжета. Не съществува нищо друго, освен тези двама души и обречеността на техните отношения. Всичко останало е пепел и смърт.

Персонажът на Кити, ах, тази прекрасна празноглава Кити, рее��а се в облаците, не е този на типичната фатална жена. Подобно на Дейзи от „Великият Гетсби“, Кити преминава през живота като нежно ухание на цвете, което носи мимолетна наслада, но почти нищо повече. Моъм има някаква слабост към интелигентните и чувствителни мъже, които се влюбват безпаметно в повърхностни обикновени жени (справка: „Души в окови“). Какво ли притегля Уолтър към равнодушната към него Кити? Нейната веселост и чарът ѝ? Това, че са като слънцето и луната? Или е просто някакъв саморазрушителен инстинкт, който го кара неотклонно да върви към бездната?
‘Is it fair to blame me because you ascribed to me qualities I hadn't got? I never tried to deceive you by pretending I was anything I wasn't. I was just pretty and gay. You don't ask for a pearl necklace or a sable coat at a booth in a fair; you ask for a tin trumpet and a toy balloon.’

За Кити любовта на Уолтър е отмъщение – в началото защото е наказание за пропилените от суета възможности, а после защото самият Уолтър я превръща в погребална клада. Кити е странник, който броди в опустошената от холера непозната земя и когато цветният воал на предишния ѝ кух живот се подвига, тя вижда света във всички негови досега размазани нюанси. Вижда грозотата и себе си. Вижда фалша на миналото. Но съзира и красота.
‘… if it is necessary sometimes to lie to others it is always despicable to lie to oneself.’

Кити се пробужда бавно, като от тежък делириум. Спъва се и пада, после продължава. За пръв път се вглежда в нещо различно от себе си. Осъзнава какво е разхищавала. Осъзнава и какво никога не е имала. Има ли твърде дълбоки рани? А празноти, които никога не могат да се запълнят?
‘The dog it was that died.’
Profile Image for Valeriu Gherghel.
Author 6 books1,303 followers
April 28, 2023
Ce se întîmplă cînd vălul vieții, frumos zugrăvit, este îndepărtat printr-un gest decis? Adevărul din spatele lui te poate strivi sau te poate salva. Maugham alege a doua consecință.

În numai 3 luni, o femeie frivolă devine un monument de cumințenie și virtute. Metamorfoza frumoasei Kitty Garstin se petrece mult prea repede ca să fie întru totul convingătoare. Nimeni nu se modifică radical într-un trimestru (sic!), chiar dacă muncește într-o mănăstire de călugărițe misionare, venite din Marsilia, într-un oraș bîntuit de molimă, iar soțul ei, doctorul Waler Fane - la care oricum nu ține, fiindcă nu-l înțelege -, moare eroic de holeră.

Maugham a fost sincer cînd a spus despre el însuși (în Bilanț) că nu are cine știe ce talent literar și nu se pricepe la comparații și metafore. Sinceritatea lui mi l-a făcut simpatic și am dus romanul pînă la capăt.

Dar nu poți să nu zîmbești citind aceste fraze:

„Acum lacrimile îi şiroiau pe faţa ei bună, de casnică” (p.198). Să ne uităm și în original: „Now the tears were pouring down her kind, homely face”.

„Kitty şezu o vreme tot pe marginea patului, ghemuită toată, ca o nebună. Avea un gol în creier. O străbătu un fior” (p.209). În engleza lui Maugham: „Kitty sat for a while, still on the edge of the bed, hunched up like an imbecile. Her mind was vacant. A shudder passed through her”.

Din păcate, diferența dintre original și traducere e considerabilă...
Profile Image for Margitte.
1,164 reviews511 followers
August 29, 2017
The Painted Veil is a remarkable golden oldie. Published in 1925 for the first time, it had slightly different approach to stories in the sense that the author punched a good story into 246 pages and said more with his economy of words, than 1000+-page novels.

Less known than his masterpiece Of Human Bondage, this 1925 Somerset Maugham novel rips at your emotions with its portrayal of an adulterous wife. When the bacteriologist husband of Kitty Fane learns of her infidelity, he forces her to accompany him into the festering center of a Chinese cholera epidemic.
The author explained in the foreword that the book was based on a story, rather than characters. While living in Italy and receiving Italian lessons, his tutor, Ersilia, introduced him to the fifth canto of the inferno.
La Pia: Ante-Purgatory, Purgatorio 5

"Siena made me, Maremma unmade me" (5.134). This chillingly concise phrase tells us that the speaker here is Pia Tolomei: born to a noble family of Siena, this woman was allegedly killed in 1295 on the orders of her husband, Paganello de' Pannocchieschi. "Nello," a Tuscan leader of the guelphs, owned a castle in the Maremma (the coastal region near Siena). While some say the murder took place with such secrecy that its manner was never known, others claim Nello ordered a servant to take Pia by the feet and drop her from the castle window. A motive for the murder may have been Nello's desire to marry his neighbor, a widowed countess. Pia's concern for Dante's well being and her request to be remembered perhaps recall the courtesy displayed by another woman, Francesca, in the fifth canto of the Inferno.
W. Somerset Maugham used this story to plot his own novel, playing itself out in England and Hong Kong. The main character is the love-starved, spoiled young woman, Kitty Fane. Forced into marriage by circumstances, she lands up going to China with her new husband, Dr. Walter Fane, a bacteriologist, who was stationed in Hong-Kong.

Kitty was vain, loved to laugh and play, and found her new husband boring and sometimes disgusting. It wasn't long before she started an affair, fell head over heels in love and believed that she has found the real meaning of love.

When Walter confronted her, he gave her an ultimatum. Either to go with him to Meitan-fu, a cholera region where an epidemic broke out, the worst one in fifty years, or he files for a divorce. The condition was that Charles Townsend, her lover should confirm in writing that he would divorce his wife and marry Kitty, with Charles's wife confirming in writing that she will divorce Charles. If Walter's conditions were not met, Kitty would have to accompany him on his journey to avoid a scandal.
Walter: 'I’m afraid you’ve thought me a bigger fool than I am.’ She did not quite know what to say. She was undecided whether indignantly to assert her innocence or to break out into angry reproaches. He seemed to read her thoughts...

...'I had no illusions about you,’ he said. ‘I knew you were silly and frivolous and empty-headed. But I loved you. I knew that your aims and ideals were vulgar and common-place. But I loved you. I knew that you were second-rate. But I loved you. It’s comic when I think how hard I tried to be amused by the things that amused you and how anxious I was to hide from you that I wasn’t ignorant and vulgar and scandal-mongering and stupid. I knew how frightened you were of intelligence and I did everything I could to make you think me as big a fool as the rest of the men you knew. I knew that you’d only married me for convenience. I loved you so much, I didn’t care. Most people, as far as I can see, when they’re in love with some one and the love isn’t returned feel that they have a grievance. They grow angry and bitter. I wasn’t like that. I never expected you to love me, I didn’t see any reason that you should, I never thought myself very lovable. I was thankful to be allowed to love you and I was enraptured when now and then thought you were pleased with me or when I noticed in your eyes a gleam of good-humoured affection. I tried not to bore you with my love; I know I couldn't afford to do that and I was always on the lookout for the first sign that you were impatient with my affection. What most husbands expect as a right I was prepared to receive as a favor.'
The implication was that Walter would not kill her, as in the Purgatorio of Dante, but take her to a region where she might die of a terrible disease. By stating the conditions, he knew Kitty was to learn a few lessons she would never forget.

That was as far as the plot was based on the fith canto of the Inferno. The title was derived from an unfinished sonnet of Shelley: Lift not the painted veil which those who live call Life

W. Somerset Maugham's story had a twist to it, which resulted in Kitty growing up, discover the meaning of life and love and repent for everything she did that caused her and everyone around her harm. Her greatest victory was to call Charles the most vain and fatuous ass that was her bad luck to ever come across. But to reach that point, she had to learn from four French nuns in a convent for orphans, what love really meant. And she got to know her gentle, kind husband, who were admired by everyone except her.

The denouement is not what you think. This is a lovestory and not a lovestory. It's about love and all its definitions. And for me, it was a tribute to the role of different kind of men playing a role in a woman's life.

The ending was sad, darnit, I was beyond grieving, but accepted the realism of it. And it was positive.

Quite an unusual story. A beautiful one, really.
Profile Image for Lisa.
1,470 reviews565 followers
November 22, 2021
[4.5] How wonderful to be in the hands of a masterful writer! I was fascinated by Kitty - a shallow, racist, self-absorbed young woman who makes a series of mistakes, gradually gaining more insight into herself and others. But the process of change is rocky and her transformation isn't a simple trajectory. At the novel's end, I had the feeling that she would continue to stumble. I loved the setting, first in Hong Kong, then a remote area of China afflicted with the cholera epidemic. I listened to the terrific audiobook narrated by Kate Reading and couldn't wait to come back to it each time I stopped.
Profile Image for *TANYA*.
1,002 reviews290 followers
August 2, 2018
A rare instance when the movie is a lot better than the book. The movie is lovely. The book was just okay.
July 29, 2019
Πρόκειται για ένα εξαιρετικό έργο της λογοτεχνίας
όπου με την γοητεία της απλότητας και το έμφυτο ταλέντο της πολυδιάστατης γραφής του συγγραφέα,
που τα κάνει όλα να μοιάζουν ωραία σαν λάγνα ψέματα, ανασηκώνει το βαμμένο πέπλο της ζωής και ξεσκεπάζει την ύπαρξη μας.
Κάπου εκεί ανακαλύπτουμε τα χρώματα των συνειδησιακών μας αναγκών και επιλέγουμε την μορφή με την οποία θα παραδοθούμε στο προσωρινό καθεστώς της ζωής μας πάνω στη γη.

Η φύση της σχέσης με τον εαυτό μας,
ο αυτοπροσδιορισμός του ρόλου μας στην ράτσα των ανθρώπων, η ωριμότητα μέσα απο πόνο και θυμό όπου εμπειρικά πλέον απορροφά κάθε μορφή συγχώρεσης, ανεξαρτήτως θρησκείας και θεραπεύει σπασμένες, καρδιές που ζητούν εκδίκηση και απαξιώνουν επιλογές και συνέπειες.

Εκεί ενσωματώνεσαι και βιώνεις το μυστήριο της ένωσης σου με την
ματαιοδοξία και τις άσκοπες αντιλήψεις.

Η ιστορία που ξεδιπλώνεται είναι ένας κρυφός θρίαμβος του ανθρώπινου πνεύματος.
Μοιάζει επιφανειακή και κοινότοπη μα εμπεριέχει μηνύματα με έντονη σαφήνεια πέρα απο ζωή και θάνατο.

Σημαντικό στοιχείο ανασκόπησης και αυτογνωσίας είναι ο τρόπος με τον οποίο κάποιος αντιμετωπίζει τους πλησιέστερους...
με πόση λαχτάρα στην καρδιά, με πόσα τραγούδια που χαϊδεύουν την ψυχή και ανακουφίζουν πληγές που κακοφόρμισαν και καημούς που έλιωσαν τα γέλιο με τα δάκρυα.
Η ζωή πρέπει να χαρίσει στον άνθρωπο το έπακρο και το ακραίο σε ολες τις εκφάνσεις μα όχι βάσει της εκμετάλλευσης άλλων.
Εκπληκτικό το γεγονός ότι ένας άνδρας συγγραφέας μπορεί να συλλάβει ασύλληπτα τα αι��θήματα και συναισθήματα μίας γυναίκας που ερωτεύεται με πάθος, προδίδει ψυχές, ήθη,αρχές, και πέφτει αμετανόητα στην λαγνεία του παράνομου και του κρυφού.
Στο αρχέγονο ένστικτο που ξυπνάει τα ζωώδη πάθη της μεταρσίωσης,της ηδονής, της σαρκικής απόλαυσης, συνδυαστικά με πνευματική συνουσία ή ανεξάρτητα απο αυτήν.
Με καυστική ειρωνεία και θρησκευτικό σαρκασμό πίστης το βαμμένο πέπλο εξυφαίνεται με τα χρώματα της σπασμένης καρδιάς, της σαλεμένης οδύνης, της παρανοϊκής ηδονής, της μοιραίας αγάπης, της πνευματικής αίσθησης αδιαλλαξίας και φιλοσοφικής δομής, της ασυμβίβαστης έκτασης των ανατολίτικων θρησκειών, των αμφισβητούμενων συνθηκών και της επίκαιρης και απροσδιόριστης φημολογίας για ζωή.

Ο Μομ συγκεντρώνει μια μάζα πόνου σχετικά με ανθρωπιστικές έννοιες και αναπτύσσει
αισθήσεις αξίας θρησκευτικών θεμάτων δυστυχίας
και αποδοχής και τα συνδυάζει ασταμάτητα με την αυξανόμενη κατανόηση της ατομικότητας και της προσωπικής ελευθερίας μέσα απο την ωριμότητα και τη γαλήνη.
Με υπέροχα κομψό τροπο προσεγγίζει εκτός απο την προσωπική ανεξαρτησία και τις απόψεις που ταλανίζουν το σύμπαν διαχρονικά, σχετικά με την ανθρώπινη σεξουαλικότητα.
Αυτή που περιορίζει τις νόμιμες σεξουαλικές σχέσεις ανδρών και γυναικών μέσα στο θεσμικό πλαίσιο.

Η επεκτατική ομορφιά του κινεζικού τοπίου σε φόντο θλιβερό, η φρικιαστική επιδημία της χολέρας παρέα με κάποιον εμφύλιο πόλεμο που υπονοείται και καλύπτεται συνεχώς κάτω απο τον ενυπάρχοντα κίνδυνο που περιβάλλει τα πάντα.

(Μην) σηκώστε το βαμμένο πέπλο όπου αυτοί που ζουν απο κάτω, αποκαλούν «ζωη»
μας λεει και μας ταξιδεύει με μια μεταφυσική. πρόθεση.

Μια απλή ιστορία συζυγικής σπατάλης σε επίπεδο διαπροσωπικό, μια ερωτική αρρώστεια απιστίας πέρα απο κάθε πίστη και στοιχεία πολιτισμού.

Τελικά. Βαθύτερα. Ενδότερα και ενδοσκοπικά το μυθιστόρημα θα ακολουθήσει την πορεία της λύτρωσης μέσω της θυσίας, χωρίς μελοδραματισμούς και με τη μέγιστη ένταση.

Καλή ανάγνωση.
Πολλούς ασπασμούς.
Profile Image for PorshaJo.
453 reviews659 followers
February 1, 2020
Rating 4.5

Why did I wait so long to read this one? I've been wanting to read this for so long, but so many books. I had a copy of the movie version, but refused to watch it until I read the book. And so the book and movie sat for years. Recently I was sick in bed and wanted to watch a movie and finally gave in to to this one. At the end of the movie, I immediately went to my library online and grabbed the audio and started it the next day. Guess you always need some kind of motivation.

Kitty Fane is a spoiled brat who thinks nothing more than herself. One day she meets Walter Fane who is immediately taken with her and asks for her hand in marriage. Kitty agrees, not because she loves him, but for selfish reasons and saving face. They move from Britain to Hong Kong, where he's a bacteriologist. Kitty is more interested in parties and socializing, and it's here where she has an affair. The affair is with an absolute scoundrel who also thinks nothing more than himself. But Kitty is such a child and just wants to be loved by him. Walter discovers the affair and almost forces her to go with him to the heart of a cholera epidemic in China. Kitty has no love for her husband, but due to shame, and no where else to go, she follows Walter. Here is where Kitty really begins to grow up. Walter now loathes Kitty but he is starting to see her in another light. But he is so driven in helping the people affected with cholera and trying to save those who live there. I'll not say more to ruin the story.

The book and movie were pretty close, until the end. It's a tough one but the endings were quite different and I might have to go with the movie version ending. I picked this one up via audio and I so enjoyed the narration. I felt transported while listening to this one. I was so immersed in the story (even though I knew it from the movie) that at times I often forgot what I was doing. I still keep thinking of the beautiful writing, the story, and the characters. I do see myself revisiting this one again some day. And now, I'm off to try more from Maugham. A highly suggested read.
Profile Image for Susan's Reviews.
1,077 reviews495 followers
August 5, 2021
So incredibly topical during this COVID pandemic.

This classic tale of love and betrayal is set in the early 1900s: Kitty Garstin accepts Dr. Walter Fane's marriage proposal because she didn't want her sister to beat her to the altar.

Kitty is vain, pretty and foolish. Walter adores her, but her feeble head is turned by a British expatriate, Charles Townsend, a notorious womanizer who is stationed in Shanghai.

Walter is shattered and disillusioned when he learns of Kitty's affair. He turns cruel in his disappointment, offering to divorce her only if Townsend agrees to divorce his wife and marry her. Of course, Kitty's faith in Townsend is equally shattered when he coldly brushes her off.

Walter, totally taken over by self-destructive unhappiness, volunteers to serve in a backwoods province (Mei-Tan-Fu) of China that is being devastated by a deadly outbreak of cholera.

I won't tell you any more. Somerset Maugham was one of my absolute favourite authors growing up. I've read just about everything he's written. You have to read this book. Talk about suspense!

The ending is just so, so dramatic. I also highly recommend both 1934 and 2006 movie adaptations of this novel. Naomi Watts and Edward Norton were spectacular in the 2006 adaptation and the river shots were gorgeous. I still remember that one famous line that Walter Fane utters in his delerium towards the end of this story:

"... The (owner) recovered of the bite, the dog it was that died"
(Taken from Oliver Goldsmith's: An Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog.

You won't regret reading this awesome "cat and mouse" game of "I dare you - do your worst!" - that backfires on both of the participants. Totally riveting!

Profile Image for Lisa.
977 reviews3,327 followers
September 30, 2021
The story should be a banality, really. Woman marries unsuited man to appease an unreasonably ambitiousand cold mother, then falls head over heals in love with the first good-for-nothing she comes across. The marriage is brutally broken and the story ends on vaguely defiant note.

Why does it feel so ... so ... much, then?

How does Somerset Maugham do it? Why do I see all these people so clearly, and understand them all in different ways? Why do they all make sense, and yet they fail?


I know Walters. Those cold and passionate introverted and unforgiving correct people who will do everything right and remain impossible to belong to. If he had been different ... but he wasn't and that is the problem.


The Charlies of this world are grating on my nerves, but I have to admit Somerset Maugham nailed him. Vain, good-looking, brutally selfish and shallow, they come, they see, they conquer, they leave.


Well, Kitty! You have to keep your promise to your unborn daughter and make her a "free man":

"I'm going to bring up my daughter so that she's free and can stand on her own feet. I´m not going to bring a child into the world, and love her, and bring her up, just so that some man may want to sleep with her so much that he's willing to provide her with board and lodging for the rest of her life."
Profile Image for Annet.
570 reviews722 followers
August 10, 2019
Beautiful book, beautifully written. A gem.
I've been looking for more books of Somerset Maugham but I can't find them in the stores in the UK. Will order online then...
Profile Image for Sawsan.
1,002 reviews
March 9, 2022
the painted veil is the veil of illusion
beautifully written novel, a story of love, infidelity, and the ability to change and forgive
love is so strange.. causing serious suffering sometimes
a quiet educated committed man fall in love with a beautiful woman who has no affection for him
a woman he realizes her vanity and superficiality but yet still wants to marry her
Kitty Fane the heroine was not a likeable character at all at the beginning
but her gradual change and awareness of herself and her husband was sensational
recognition of life, true love, and obligations towards others were valuable even if there's no happily ever after at the end
Profile Image for Maria Espadinha.
1,016 reviews364 followers
October 2, 2020
O Véu de Entrelinhas

Que dizer sobre este livro?!...

Vou dedicar-lhe algumas linhas e - inspirada pelo título - um véu de entrelinhas:

Aqui há Ele, Ela e Cólera!

Cólera emocional e Cólera real.

Há falso amor, paixão, traição e vingança.

E há crescimento e um final irritante que castigo roubando-lhe uma estrela!

Mas enfim... admito que adorei! ;)

Nota: os mais curiosos, i.e. , os interessados em saber a que crescimento me refiro, podem passar à próxima Resenha.
Quanto aos restantes, sugiro que fiquem por aqui! ;)

O Crescimento de Kitty

Ela é frívola, caprichosa, egocêntrica...e algo mais que ainda não sabe!

Ele é carente, desastrado no amor, racional, inteligente e...mais qualquer coisa que também não sabe!

Casam-se sem compatibilizar diferenças.
Estão juntos e distantes!
Vivem num relacionamento frio! Sem faísca!
Simplesmente estão! Num limbo! Parados! Vivos e Mortos!...

Até àquele dia em que a Vida os abana, envolvendo-os numa situação limite, em que a sobrevivência implica Crescimento!
Profile Image for Chrissie.
2,738 reviews1,468 followers
September 8, 2020
So I assume you have read the book description and know approximately what the book is about. This description ends with the words: "The Painted Veil is a beautifully written affirmation of the human capacity to grow, to change, and to forgive." Well, I would say that this can certainly be debated! This is an ideal book for a book club; there is much that can be discussed. Views will differ.

Some people find this book a huge disappointment. Others like it very much. So how do you go about deciding whether to read it or not? For me the answer is simple. If you need to like the characters in a book, then I doubt this book will suit you. If you need characters to grow wiser, mature and improve themselves then your opinion will be up for grabs. If you want a book that draws realistic characters that do what a person with that personality would do, then yeah, I think you’ll like this. This is why I liked it. This is my favorite by W. Somerset Maugham.

The author states in the short introduction that this is the only one of his books where he started with an idea for a plot and thereafter invented characters to fit the events. Usually he began in the opposite end, with a character or characters around which he constructed a plot. This worried me since character portrayal is more important to me than plot! Don't worry as I did. Every character is exceedingly well drawn. Just as with real, live people, no two are alike. Each one has a very specific and clear personality. Each one's actions and words and thoughts correspond perfectly with their different personalities. This is why I so liked the book. I repeatedly stopped and considered how would such a person behave? Always their actions rang true. OK, one may not like the actions, but what is delivered is how people really are. There are two nuns. They help balance the shallowness found in some, the anger and inability to forgive found in another. Most significantly, the characters are utterly real. Real because you understand them and because each is a mix of good and bad qualities.

Description of places occasionally took my breath away. Description of clothes, facial appearances and manners are astute. Superb dialogs. What I am saying is that the writing, the language used, is exceptionally good! Sometimes lyrical, most often precise.

I listened to the audiobook narrated by Joanna Ward, alias Kate Reading. Don’t read the paper book. Don’t listen to an audiobook narrated by another; Reading’s narration is so magnificently well done. Perfect - perfect speed, excellent clarity and exceptionally well interpreted intonations that reflect the respective characters’ personalities.

I never imagined I would enjoy this so very, very much. Honestly, there is nothing I can think of to complain about. Four stars correspond perfectly with my reaction to the book.


Other books I have read by Maugham with their respective ratings:
Christmas Holiday 3 stars
Of Human Bondage 2 stars
The Moon and Sixpence 2 stars
12 reviews3 followers
January 3, 2008
I agree whole-heartedly with other reviewers -- the movie was better! I saw the movie first and loved it. It is a brilliant and beautiful love story -- and who can resist Edward Norton's stoic, yet smoldering interpretation of Walter.

You can appreciate the movie better once you read the book and get to know the characters as they were originally intended. The movie does a good job of interpreting those characters honestly and uses dialogue verbatim from the book. But, in the movie, Walter and Kitty are much more likeable -- probably because they find (SPOILER ALERT)redemption in their love for one another, and Kitty is able to resist Charlie's later advances.

While the book was well-written, I was expecting a similar ending to the movie and was all the more disappointed with Kitty in particular. I would have liked to experience more resolution between Kitty and Walter, but she was trying to be honest -- and if she truly did not love him, it would not have been fair to expect her to say she did. It was still disappointing. Equally, if not more, disappointing still was the way Kitty was able to dismiss her experiences with Walter and the epidemic as part of another world -- how, far too quickly, she embraced the luxuries and comforts of life back in Hong Kong. But, perhaps, this was more realistic.
Even still, it is the moment I became less forgiving of her character and the direction the book was taking. I would have liked her to have still more sympathy and love for her family, became more transparent with Waddington and, finally, resist Charlie -- even one last time. She didn't change as much as I had hoped.

The book did have one very redemptive moment for me at the end -- Kitty told her father that (SPOILER ALERT) she would raise her daughter to be self-sufficient. I did not expect the book to have such a clear message. It made a lot of sense, but still did not entirely redeem Kitty for me. She experienced moments of truth, which were so revealing, but ultimately more frustrating than they were helpful. I only hope she was able to raise her daughter to be more compassionate and less self-absorbed -- but, for a character like Kitty, it seems unlikely.
Profile Image for Antoinette.
755 reviews41 followers
September 15, 2022
This book got under my skin- first because I totally disliked Kitty and then because I really wanted everything to turn out well for her. I had a love hate relationship with her right from the beginning. For Walter, her husband, I felt mostly pity. An introvert who just didn’t know how to express his feelings. If only…If only either could have changed just enough.

Walter says to Kitty:
“I never expected you to love me, I didn’t see any reason that you should, I never thought myself very lovable….What most husbands expected as a right, I was prepared to receive as a favour.”
What a line- made my heart throb for Walter.

Women at this time (1920’s) had to marry. They needed someone to support them. Kitty was definitely a product of her time. Maugham does seem to have a jaundiced view of marriage. There is betrayal; there is some redemption. Kitty is forced to reevaluate herself and her life. For me, there is so much in this book that is ripe for discussion.

I really don’t want to say too much of the plot- it is a short book after all and I think it is best discovered fresh.

There are two poetry references that should be looked up. At one point, Walter says, “The dog it was that died.” That is from a poem by Oliver Goldsmith, written in 1766- “An Elegy on the death of a Mad Dog.”

The second is the title. It comes from a poem by Shelley.

“Lift not the painted veil
Which those who live call life.”
The title would be confusing not knowing that it is from a poem.

I hadn’t read Maugham in a very long time. I am happy that my IRL classics group picked it as I loved this book. So much to delve into!
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