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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 (581 )
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4.2 (229 )
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4.3 (231 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Kevin Provo, UT, USA 02-27-07
    Kevin Provo, UT, USA 02-27-07
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A Joyous Realm"

    I was intreged by the trailer for the recent motion picture and thought of reading the book prior to seeing the movie. It is truly thought provoking and great from start to finish. The reader is a delight. I am now in search of more of Somerset Maugham's works.

    23 of 23 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cathy Northern CA Coast 10-22-08
    Cathy Northern CA Coast 10-22-08 Member Since 2002
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "What An Unexpected Delight!"

    I generally consider myself an educated person, but somehow got through (many) decades of adult life without reading Maugham. I'm either very lucky to have finally found this writer, or really dumb to have missed him for so long. Either way, I was enchanted by the writing, approved of the narration, and can't seem to get the story out of my mind. There are so many ways to consider the story, the characters, the setting and the atmosphere I can't begin to tell you. I can tell you that even if you don't usually crave "classics" (but maybe have a few favorites as I have like The Great Gatsby and The Old Man and the Sea) you've got to listen to, and consider, The Painted Veil.

    15 of 15 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kathleen New York, NY, USA 07-16-07
    Kathleen New York, NY, USA 07-16-07
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    "Worth reading"

    Maugham's story is dated but no doubt true to its time, and for that reason sad and believable. His sympathy for the dull and restricted lives that many women were expected to endure is tempered by his disgust at the superficiality, racism and timidity of the British upper classes. This tale is a true social and political portrait of an era, and as creepily modern as it is time-worn.

    13 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sharon Sebring, FL, United States 06-13-07
    Sharon Sebring, FL, United States 06-13-07 Member Since 2007
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    "Rich and Compelling"

    "The Painted Veil" is a compelling tale of lust and redemption, a story that begins sordidly and ends profoundly and one that is rich in reality, compassion, and hope. It is a morality tale of astonishing depth and humanity. Beautifully written and entertainingly read, it it is well worth listening to more than once.

    10 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Eunice Merritt Sagamore Hills, Oh United States 01-18-08
    Eunice Merritt Sagamore Hills, Oh United States 01-18-08 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Very, very good"

    I really enjoyed this book. It is the first book I have experienced by Maugham, and I was impressed with both the writing and the handling of men's and women's issues/feelings. The narrator is excellent. I would not have found this book without Audible. What a great way to experience the classics.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kathi Sterling, VA, United States 04-28-13
    Kathi Sterling, VA, United States 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.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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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!

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    E. Pearson Idaho 12-03-10
    E. Pearson Idaho 12-03-10 Member Since 2008

    Occasional Thinker

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Devastating Beauty"

    The beginning chapters of this book had me expecting a far different type of story than this turned out to be. The metamorphosis of complex characters who can--and sometimes do--make important steps in life was told with such candor and sensitivity that I find myself quite astonished about how it was done. The book was in no sense difficult to understand, yet its messages are quite rigorous and profound. I would highly recommned this novel, author, and excellent reader to anyone who (like myself) hopes someday to think and grow up into an insightful and gracious soul.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    maria aguirre 11-27-09 Member Since 2009
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    "A wonderful journey"

    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.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Stephanie Montreal, Quebec, Canada 09-11-09
    Stephanie Montreal, Quebec, Canada 09-11-09 Member Since 2008
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    "Tad melancholy, hopeful in the end. Beautiful."

    The prose is just beautiful, the English is quaint and the narrator is wonderful. Love and meaning in life exists for those who seek to find/ uncover it. Author's world view reminds me of the quote the stars shine down and weep for us. The characters overall and psychological profiles are superbly fleshed out and made real. Deeply touched by the heroine. I am disappointed by the summary above as it gives away all the broad strokes and so detracted from my listen. I felt a touch sad and irritable after listening but this will be one of my all time favorite books and I think I will buy it in hardcover. Exceeded expectations greatly. Quick read.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Paula Overland Park, KS USA 07-07-13
    Paula Overland Park, KS USA 07-07-13 Member Since 2012

    Enjoying one good listen after the next!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Such a Good Story!"

    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.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
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