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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 (586 )
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4.3 (236 )
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  •  
    W. Perry Hall 03-14-14 Member Since 2012

    S. Quire

    HELPFUL VOTES
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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.

    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 2006
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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
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    2
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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 2011

    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
  •  
    Kenneth Cary, NC, United States 01-02-12
    Kenneth Cary, NC, United States 01-02-12 Member Since 2007
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    "Well written but disappointing"

    Let me start with the best part of this book: I love Kate Reading. I think she could read anything and make it worth listening to. Her timing is impeccable as always and her voice is smooth and perfect.

    The story started out REALLY well and went places I never expected but it was like the author got tired of the characters and finished the book in haste. He could have gone so much farther with the development of Kitty. It happens but to me it was disjointed and very abrupt at times. At base I don't have a problem with how the story ended but I think Maugham could have filled in the gaps a little, drawn out the time line more and brought her to exactly where she ended up while giving more detail to how she got there.

    It wasn't a bad story just a missed opportunity.

    I would recommend it still however since it is so unique.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Christian Cardinale 12-13-11
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    "An enthralling story of love and death."

    Somerset Maugham is so good at analysing human feelings in a desperate situation. This story is gripping because it deals with inexorable fate and the pain of betrayal, death and redemption. How a woman could get duped by the man she loves, and the slow process of awareness of the existence of charity and goodness when she finds herself unwillingly amidst the victims of a cholera outbreak in China . This trial will work as an eye-opener for her, when she realises how devoted her husband is and how useless she is in comparison, but she can't change her inner feelings and feels miserable. The unfaithful wife becomes repentant and has learnt the lesson of life, but ironically she is not yet master of her destiny and can't resist the seductiveness of her former lover and hates herself for it. She finds appeasement only when her bereaved father accepts to take her along to a distant island.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    K. K. T. Coyle Grants, NM 12-12-11
    K. K. T. Coyle Grants, NM 12-12-11 Member Since 2007
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    "Dark, Tragic, Charming"
    What made the experience of listening to The Painted Veil the most enjoyable?

    I had watched the movie recently and the first part of the movie matches the book spot on. The ending is significantly different, but powerful and important. I consider it a very feminist novel.


    What other book might you compare The Painted Veil to and why?

    I feel it follows the same traditions as many Edith Wharton novellas and short stories.


    What does Kate Reading bring to the story that you wouldn???t experience if you just read the book?

    I have appreciated the range Kate Reading brings to every book I have heard her narrate.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Catherine Washington, DC, United States 11-05-11
    Catherine Washington, DC, United States 11-05-11 Member Since 2005
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    "Lovely"

    I have never read anything by this author before, and enjoyed listening to this piece. The story seems very modern. Although I would have appreciated more detail about the rural parts of China where some of it takes place, I suppose it's not suprising that a story written at this time only focuses on the Europeans there and their very limited interactions with actual Chinese people. I really loved the narrator. I think anyone who enjoys a good Masterpiece Theater production will enjoy this book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Swierczewski Ozone Park, NY, United States 09-13-11
    Swierczewski Ozone Park, NY, United States 09-13-11
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    "A Great Story Told By A Wonderful Narrator"

    This was the first audio book read by a female narrator that I completely enjoyed through all of the different voices. Each character portrayed had their own distinct voice and thankfully the male characters were not given a hoarse and throaty imitation of what a man might sound like but a genuinely personal touch. Kate Reading was an excellent choice for a superlative novel.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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