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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 (1689 )
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  •  
    Debbie Toney, Alabama 08-05-16
    Debbie Toney, Alabama 08-05-16 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
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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
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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
  •  
    W Perry Hall 03-14-14
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    Story
    "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.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    P. Giorgio 06-23-11
    P. Giorgio 06-23-11
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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
  •  
    Kathi 04-28-13
    Kathi 04-28-13 Member Since 2010
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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
    HELPFUL VOTES
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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
  •  
    Aaron 03-25-17
    Aaron 03-25-17 Member Since 2016
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Infidelity and Redemption"

    Deep, sad and poignant. This is a masterpiece of tragic literature. If you have not read The Painted Veil, I recommend it as a character study alone. The language is elegant. The reading by Kate reading is touching, yet does not distract from the story.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David 02-19-17
    David 02-19-17 Member Since 2017
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Adultery in Hong Kong"

    I've heard W. Somerset Maugham raved about by literati, but never read any of his works before. This short novel - which is very much a work of its time, and not the worse for it - happens to hit one of my favorite themes, being a redemption story for a character who starts out thoroughly unlikable and with few redeeming qualities.

    Kitty Fane is a shallow, materialistic daughter of a shallow, materialistic mother who henpecked Kitty's father, always seeking to improve their lot in life, and when that failed, pushed Kitty and her more fortunate younger sister into marrying well. Unfortunately, Kitty was young and vain and stubborn and turned down the many proposals she received, no one meeting her standards, until suddenly she was past her shelf life at the ripe old age of 25. Well, be fair, this was the early 20th century marriage market in British society.

    So Kitty winds up marrying a bacteriologist, a decent, boring, unexceptional man who adores her, and who she finds barely tolerable. When the two of them go off to Hong Kong, she escapes the tedium of her marriage by falling victim (a very willing victim, as she admits herself) to the seductions of the local lothario. When her husband finds out, he forces her to come with him to a city in rural China that's being ravaged by cholera.

    The story is a simple tragic tale of adultery and redemption. But Maugham truly excels in detailing the inner workings of his characters, and shows us Kitty's thoughts, as she slowly transforms from a selfish, self-centered, rationalizing creature to one who eventually becomes capable of seeing through the eyes of others, and then seeing herself through others' eyes, and then realizing that she is not in fact the center of the universe. And he does it very convincingly - by the end, you are actually able to like Kitty.

    Despite the entire story being told through Kitty's POV, the other characters - her husband, her lover, the Mother Superior at the Chinese orphanage, and eventually, Kitty's father - are all described with in such realistic and believable detail that you are thoroughly able to understand them as well - both before and after Kitty is able to do the same.

    This was a very nice piece of writing, full of interesting character studies and a story and setting just rich enough to be vivid, just sparse enough not to contain anything unneeded. I will definitely have to listen to more Maugham.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Edie 01-31-17
    Edie 01-31-17
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A Searching"

    Really enjoyed this story which although written in the 1920's rings true for many today. It exhibits a young, frivolous woman's search for identity and feelings of worth. She has difficulty throughout the book finding that which will give her peace, but as in real life, change is a arduous journey which can often take a lifetime.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Diane Louisville, KY, United States 06-03-12
    Diane Louisville, KY, United States 06-03-12 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    802
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    142
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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

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