Quite simply this book was a very enjoyable listen. I liked the visual journey I imagined as the scenes were described and I thought the ending was unpredictable.
I watched the 2006 film version with Ed Norton and Naomi Watts and thoroughly enjoyed the adaptation. Somewhere I read in a review that the adaptation had the familiar Hollywood gloss and the book was somewhat different. Finally, I got a deal at Audible and I dived in.
This was my first Maugham and I enjoyed the period setting of this novel in the colonial Far East. The character of Kitty Garstin, a self-absorbed socialite is a character I despised. The story revolves around her infidelity with a dashing but unscrupulous married diplomat and the luckless husband, Walter. There are some wonderful quotes in this book that makes you read it out twice. They stick in your mind long after the story has died. As Waddington, an alcoholic diplomat says to Kitty,
“Some of us look for the Way in opium and some in God, some of us in whiskey and some in love. It is all the same Way and it leads nowhither.”
In summary, the words within the book are stronger than the story and there lies the strength of Maugham’s writing. There are no characters in this book other than perhaps Waddington, who captures your imagination as a progressive, cohabiting with a noble Chinese woman. The rest are thoroughly rotten in their own way. At the end, you even wonder if Kitty finally does find salvation through her experiences.
This is a good book and I recommend it.
The book, inspired by a verse from Dante, begins with, "the painted veil, which those who live call life." The question then becomes, if life is fleeting and our human significance is utterly ephemeral in the infinity of time, what does it mean to live or, to put it another way, what gives meaning to our lives?
The story, set in colonial China, revolves around the wife of a British scientist/bureaucrat in Hong Kong and later in the provinces. Through this story, the book explores the question of what will give us happiness and bring meaning to our lives. Is it in the indulgence of pleasure? The performance of duty? The acquisition of wealth and status?
Despite some pretty offensive racism (most of which occurs in the furtherance of character development), the book, narrated by the inimitable Kate Reading, stands well the test of time.
The recent film based on this 1924 novel, while lovely, does not stick to the original, much more complex, and rather demanding story. This is a book that from beginning to end makes you think deeply about mother-daughter relationships, love, guilt, repentance, courage, revenge, self-knowledge and self-sacrifice, and sexual predators. Much of the story takes place in the exotic setting of a remote Chinese village afflicted with an epidemic of cholera. Maugham draws his characters precisely and with sympathy, and has his usual sharp eye for the British bureaucrats who ran the Empire. This is a story that repays re-reading and re-hearing, providing much food for thought about human nature and how we grow psychologically and spiritually.
By upbringing our heroine is unprepared to appreciate love and compassion. Even though married, she thinks nothing of having an affair and hurting her husband. Slowly she awakens to the greater beauty and depth of life after her shallow lover abandons her to certain death.
This is a poignant tale of an odyssey of atonement she continues even as the novel ends.
Kate Reading reads Maugham beautifully.
This is a morality tale, though not preachy. It is the slow dawning of love and compassion for others.
Although this book was originally published in 1925, I thought that it would take me to a different time and place. It definitely did that, but I was looking for a deeper plot. It was very boring to me. Don't get me wrong, this book was well written and the narrator did a fantastic job, but the story line itself did nothing for me. This book received raved reviews, but I truly did not see what all the fuss was about. It was ok. Unfortunately, I will not listen to this one again...
A wonderful story with excellent narration. This is the first classic novel I have listened to via audible. I so enjoyed the characters and the thoughts of the novel.
Enjoying one good listen after the next!
Even if you've seen the made for TV movie, listen to this book! Maugham's writing is brought to life by Kate Reading's superb narration. How she does so many different voices so well is a mystery. The story centers on the response of a husband who discovers his spoiled wife has cheated on him. Was his initial intent to put her in such peril that her death would be imminent? How did she adapt and grow in response to her husband's leadership? Mostly set in China during a cholera epidemic, it is a worthy story that is a great listen.
One master-passion in the br east, like Aaron's serpent, swallows all the rest. A. Pope
A case study by Somerset Maugham (a personal favorite) on the travesties of the faithless, heartless cheater on the faithful spouse and, even moreso, on the poisonous effects of resentment.
Kitty Fane ruthlessly ridicules her husband, Dr. Walter Fane, to her lover and dreams of marrying the cad who played her. She awakens too late to the fallacy of her fantasy and the spinelessness of her beau.
Though Walter loves her so, in his desire for revenge he decides to take her to the heart of the cholera epidemic in rural China, where, ironically, he gives so much of himself without thought of his pride.
Prior to departing, he says to Kitty:
“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.”
Nevertheless, off they go. And while Kitty is well into a journey of self-discovery and moral awareness, Walter cannot douse the flames of a cuckold until it's too late.
I love Kate Reading's narration, as Kitty Fane and, even more as another more famous adultress Madame Bovary. She gives heart and pathos to these heartless harlots like no other.