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The Painted Veil Audiobook

The Painted Veil

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Publisher's Summary

First published in 1925, The Painted Veil is an affirmation of the human capacity to grow, change, and forgive. Set in England and Hong Kong in the 1920s, it is the story of the beautiful but shallow young Kitty Fane. When her husband discovers her adulterous affair, he forces her to accompany him to a remote region of China ravaged by a cholera epidemic.

Stripped of the British society of her youth and overwhelmed by the desolation around her, she is compelled by her awakening conscience to reassess her life. She takes up work with children at a convent, but when her husband dies, she is forced to return to England to her father, her one remaining relative, to raise her unborn child. Though too late for her marriage, she has learned humility, independence, and how to love.

Listen to the classics: download more from W. Somerset Maugham.

©1925 W. Somerset Maugham; (P)2006 Blackstone Audio Inc.

What the Critics Say

  • Audie Award Finalist, Classic, 2007

"[Maugham is] the modern writer who has influenced me the most." (George Orwell)
"An expert craftsman....His style is sharp, quick, subdued, casual."(New York Times)
"The Painted Veil, with its sadness, its moral tension, its irony and compassion, its building evocations of lust and terror and remorse, is a work of art." (Spectator)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.2 (1068 )
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  •  
    Debbie Toney, Alabama 08-05-16
    Debbie Toney, Alabama 08-05-16 Member Since 2013

    Retired CFO, Army wife, Mom of five, Grandma of six, two sons who served in combat, love to read books that reflect my values and faith, love mysteries, historical, military stories, and books that don't waste my time . . . if it doesn't have an ending that was worth the wait, I'm not a happy camper.

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    "1925 to Now . . . Some Things Never Change"

    Vain, selfish, puffed up . . . and unable to see beyond the end of her own nose, Kitty Garstan, is pretty and has drawn the attention of plenty of eligible young men . . . but having turned them all down, and now at age 25 and about to pass into spinsterhood according to her mother, she feels pressed to accept the proposal of young bacteriologist, Walter Fane . . . he has fallen quite madly in love with her . . . though his shy, backward ways amuse her . . becoming wife to Dr. Fane at his post in Hong Kong seems a fitting station to Kitty . . . so it is that she accepts Walter's proposal . . . society life as the life of a bacteriologist is not what Kitty had hoped . . . and she soon begins an adulterous affair with the Colonel Charles Townsend, the Assistant Governor of Hong Kong . . . an older fellow, who, like Kitty, suffered much from an over inflated opinion of himself . . . thinking herself to be in love for the first time in her life, Kitty overlooks the obvious . . . i.e., the fact that Charles is happily married, that he spends WAY too much time preening in front of the mirror, and that his WIFE is the one with the brains in the family . . . and suave Charles feeds Kitty's ego, like candy to a baby . . . with all the "I love you's" and "I will never let you down"s until one could upchuck at the sheer idiocy of it . . . and low and behold, poor naive Walter . . . who has loved his wife with a never ending love, expecting nothing in return . . . well, he isn't the country bumpkin one would have imagined . . .(I do hate that the author did not delve further into Walter's own emotions from this point further, other than to show his bitterness . . . I am going to watch the movie, as other reviewers have noted that the conclusion is different) . . . from the time that Walter confronts Kitty with her cheating and their move to China, the story changes greatly . . . and so do Walter and Kitty . . . the relationship of Kitty with the nuns and children, the work of Walter with the Chinese dying of cholera, the story of Waddington and the Manchu Princess were all wonderful . . . but as Kitty grows and finally realizes the worthlessness of Charles, his shallowness, her own foolishness, and begins to see the kindness of her own husband, she is yet to truly VALUE it . . . to LOVE him . . . to understand the GIFT of him . . . the ending is a hard one . . . brutal . . . but leaves hope for Kitty to yet learn and grow with her father and her child.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ruth Bain 01-22-15
    Ruth Bain 01-22-15

    RueRue

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    "Classic story, classy narration"

    I loved this beautifully written, tragic story. The narration by Kate Reading is perfect. A timeless classic

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Laura Locust Fork, AL, United States 02-23-13
    Laura Locust Fork, AL, United States 02-23-13 Member Since 2014

    I'm a library student and book blogger. I love audiobooks as much as I love print... sometimes more. It's my format of choice.

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    "Too Depressing"

    I saw the movie adaptation years ago and didn’t realize it was a book until about two years ago. I enjoyed the movie and I’ve been trying to go and read the books that some of the movies I’ve seen were based on. This experience didn’t quite work out as I had planned.

    Nothing really stood out about any character in this entire book. They just felt so flat. I think they were supposed to come off as raw and real, but I just ended up hating them. Kitty was selfish and silly. She went on and on about how much she didn’t like Walter because he was boring. The reality was he was an intelligent, mature adult who worked for a living. She’d never worked a day in her life and was still more interested in parties than anything. I think Walter thought she would grow up eventually, and she did. I just couldn’t like her. Charlie was a class-A jerk. If there’s anything I did like about Walter, it’s that he could see that from the start. Kitty was naïve and vain enough to think Charlie loved her. The only good characters in the book were minor characters Kitty meets in the village she and Walter move to. I don’t need to love characters, but I do need to feel connected to them and I never felt that.

    I spent most of this book waiting for something to happen that never happened. I just wanted Kitty to make things right and learn from her mistakes. I’m not sure that she ever did though. She went through a period of loathing herself and building up hate for Charlie. She also eventually gained respect for Walter and who he was, but that turned into pity instead of love. ***Spoiler Alert*** Then, after all of her self-loathing, after knowing that Charlie was a total asshole, she still sleeps with him right after her husband dies! I’m not buying the overcome with passion bs. She was just heartless. She was a pitiful, pathetic excuse for a human being. ***End Spoilers*** I just feel like she never learned anything. I truly think the most she got from the whole ordeal was that she shouldn’t marry on a whim.

    There might be some people ready to kill me for this, but the film wins. I’ll admit that it’s partly because there’s some romance in the film and there’s not any in the book. It’s mostly because I actually like Walter and Kitty in the film, even if Kitty is a total idiot in the beginning. The book is just too depressing. I will say this: they changed some major plot points in the film. It makes me wonder how those decisions are made. Does someone just wake up one morning and say, “I should make a movie adaptation of The Painted Veil, but it has some pretty awful characters and a super depressing plot. Oh well, I’ll just change that.” That makes no sense to me. I’ll grant that my reaction to this book is due to the fact that I saw the film first, but I’m not sure I would have finished the book otherwise. I only finished it this time due to curiosity about what was different.

    I did listen to this on audio. Unfortunately, I can’t say much about that because I was too distracted by how much I wasn’t enjoying the actually story. I think Kate Reading did a good job. I’ve listened to audiobooks by her before and enjoyed them. I just didn’t like the story overall so it’s hard for me to make a good call on the narration.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    P. Giorgio 06-23-11
    P. Giorgio 06-23-11

    TheWriter

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    "Not bad ... not great"

    A trifle pedantic and indulgent by the author. I found elements of Anna Karenina and hints of Madame Bovary, but not the emotional impact of either. This is a story that has all the ingredients of a morality tale, and none of the reality of redemption. It was predictable yet readable, and while I saw what was coming, felt I should continue it. It made me think that Maugham -- sorry -- had less creativity and imagination but wonderful style and powerful language. Nothing original here. But worth reading, worth hearing the masterful use of language.

    12 of 16 people found this review helpful
  •  
    W Perry Hall 03-14-14

    One master-passion in the br east, like Aaron's serpent, swallows all the rest. A. Pope

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    "How can Adulterer B So Heartless? (Resentmt Kills)"

    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.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kathi 04-28-13
    Kathi 04-28-13 Member Since 2010

    Love books! Classics and lighter fiction, mysteries (not too violent please :-). And selective non-fiction--whatever takes my fancy.

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    "A compelling story of transformation"

    This book was a very intense listen. First published in 1925, it is the story of a childless woman who starts out--a product of her upbringing--as a fairly shallow, bored woman who is having an affair with someone known to her husband. Upon his discovering this, he takes her to an area of China that is rampant with cholera (one assumes this dangerous action was meant to put her passively into death's midst as a way to punish her.)

    Here, she gradually finds her way to a local convent where she begins to find meaningful work in helping the nuns care for children there, and so, despite the terrible conditions they live in, she is beginning to have experiences that will ultimately lead to enormous growth for herself. This does have a rather early feminist quality to it--whether intentionally or not. Or at least, it is hard not to read it that way at this point in time.

    The book traces the course of significant inner changes in Kitty Fane's life--that end with her being back with her father and pondering all that she has learned in the events she has survived, hoping her own child will have a life different from her own.

    What makes this book so good, among other things, is its' shift to the examination of a woman's experiences, her transformation and how she deepens her existence as a result of challenging events she has lived through. Kate Reading does an excellent job of narration. I highly recommend this as a very good read/listen!

    9 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer Pittsburgh, PA 04-03-10
    Amazon Customer Pittsburgh, PA 04-03-10 Member Since 2016

    groing

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    "Good Read"

    I have tried to listen to as many audible classics as I can find and enjoy them immensely. This story was no different. The setting was easy to visualize, the story moved along at a nice pace, the narrator was pleasant to listen to. As compared to other classics, this book was a little bit of an easier listen. You will not be disappointed.... If you enjoy classics - try Uncle Tom's Cabin, A Tale of Two Cities, Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, Crime and Punishment....there are so many wonderful stories

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Diane Louisville, KY, United States 06-03-12
    Diane Louisville, KY, United States 06-03-12 Member Since 2010
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    Story
    "What does it mean to live?"

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alifa Jerusalem, Israel 09-25-11
    Alifa Jerusalem, Israel 09-25-11 Member Since 2011
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    "The Painted Veil"

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Senior Citizen #8 05-15-11

    SC

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    "Odyssey of atonement"

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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