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The Painted Veil | [W. Somerset Maugham]

The Painted Veil

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.
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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

4.1 (653 )
5 star
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4.2 (294 )
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Story
4.3 (296 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Jan Woodbridge, VA, United States 04-05-11
    Jan Woodbridge, VA, United States 04-05-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Dreadfully Slow, Not a Big Plot."

    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...

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Connie Shawnee, KS, United States 03-27-09
    Connie Shawnee, KS, United States 03-27-09 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Wonderful!"

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    D. DeVries Northwest, IN. 06-29-15
    D. DeVries Northwest, IN. 06-29-15 Member Since 2013

    I have a quilting business. Since I love to read, I cannot read a book and quilt at the same time. Now I can listen to books and quilt too.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    8
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    Story
    "Growing up"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Yes I would. This story pointed out the fragility of relationships...marriage and how the grass is NOT greener on the other side.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Kitty Fane and her evolution into 'growing up' and being held accountable for her decisions.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    The author sets us back in time with the story and setting...but also can easily be set in today's era.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    My favorite scene was when the realization of her actions comes full force in her heart and mind.


    Any additional comments?

    A very insightful book. It reminds us all about the values of love and marriage...and honesty.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Barbara Mulvenna 05-23-15

    barbara

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    9
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    "Exceptional"

    I think Maugham tells a beautiful story and his command of language and phrasing is wonderful.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Candik24 03-21-15
    Candik24 03-21-15 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
    4
    ratings
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    211
    7
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    Story
    "Good lesson learned"

    It was a good story. The lesson women need to learn is always this one.
    Characters development good for the shorter book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David San Diego, CA, United States 01-07-15
    David San Diego, CA, United States 01-07-15 Member Since 2011
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    "Tragic and Complete"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    As a well written piece of its period I would highly recommend this. Although I didn't care for the narrator at certain points and there were times when you could tell it was a man trying to write from a woman's perspective, the story is a good one. The ending is an optimistic one and reminds us that we can forge the relationships we would like to.


    What aspect of Kate Reading’s performance would you have changed?

    Some of her male characters sounded very similar to each other, so I would have done a little bit more to distinguish between them. Also, the main character sounded shrill at times.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    I did want to power through it, but more to say I had listened to it rather than being caught up in the story itself.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Generosa Rader San Diego, CA 01-26-14
    Generosa Rader San Diego, CA 01-26-14 Member Since 2014
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    "Absolutely riveting story and reading!"
    If you could sum up The Painted Veil in three words, what would they be?

    Superb Magnificent Unsurpassed


    What did you like best about this story?

    The author's incredibly realistic portrayal of human character - such as failings, immorality, honesty, self-examination and redemption.


    What does Kate Reading bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    She has a unique voice which conveys all conceivable emotions, men, women, children, foreign accents, foreign languages. Her artistry brings one into the plot as if you were standing there observing them interacting, thinking, suffering, joyful, worried, etc.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    When Kitty Fane realizes what a fool she has been - Townsend, her lover, never loved her at all. She was just his play thing and nothing more. The next best moment is when Kitty realizes how much she truly loves and respects her husband.


    Any additional comments?

    W. Somerset Maugham's stories are incredibly realistic. He has the uncanny ability to create and delve into all sorts of personalities and describe their motivations, good or bad, in ways that may compel you to consider your own strengths and weaknesses.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    springday MD, United States 04-01-13
    springday MD, United States 04-01-13
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    "A story of self discovery beautifully narrated"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Painted Veil to be better than the print version?

    Yes


    What did you like best about this story?

    The pace of the story and the character analysis


    Have you listened to any of Kate Reading’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    First listen


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Yes


    Any additional comments?

    Good Story, well paced and artfully narrated.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Donna Durham, NC, USA 03-06-13
    Donna Durham, NC, USA 03-06-13 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Important Life Lessons Revealed"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I would recommend this book. Chapter after chapter, it never failed to entertain and make me think. The main character, Kitty, grows immeasurably by way of her experiences. She is a victim of her upbringing and comes to realize this. The language in the book is stunning and I learned new words and turns of phase. The narration is superb; Kate Reading is a wonderful actress. She is very talented at possessing the different voices in the novel. I felt like I was learning a lot about colonial China, which was eye opening. In all, there is a lot on the literary plate here to satisfy the reader's appetite.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Painted Veil?

    One of the most memorable moments was when Walter admitted he knew about the thing Kitty and Charlie did.


    What about Kate Reading’s performance did you like?

    Her voice is so rich and warm. She exposes the characters virtues, vices and depth through her voice.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    Yes, I was moved when Kitty went to see her father towards the end of the novel.


    0 of 0 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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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