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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.

Critic Reviews

  • 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

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  • Overall

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.

47 of 51 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Kevin
  • Provo, UT, USA
  • 02-27-07

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.

42 of 46 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

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.

24 of 26 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Sharon
  • Sebring, FL, United States
  • 06-13-07

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.

32 of 35 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

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.

36 of 40 people found this review helpful

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  • Story
  • Eileen
  • Gardnerville, NV, United States
  • 12-14-11

Very well written and read story

Wonderful story teller. Maugham had insight and compassion for the human condition of his time. In this story most particularly he offers understanding about the societal bondage of women and he writes with surprising sympathy of Kitty's "awakening" to her true powers as a female in a wholly male dominated world. She purposefully has not been very educated, is not talented in any particular way, has not been nurtured to think well of herself, except as a pretty, marriageable female. Even in that she has been made to feel she is lacking. An older man becomes besotted with her and convinces her to marry him, aided by the pressure of Kitty's younger sister marrying leaving Kitty open to becoming that most derided female--a spinster. She is seduced by another man, a vain and selfish aging Lothario. When Kitty is revealed as imperfect, her husband threatens and punishes her emotionally and puts her in harm's way. Despite her husband's cruel vindictiveness and her lover's betrayal Kitty matures, learns her own worth and moves on. Kate Reading did a superb job narrating. Lovely story.

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story
  • Saman
  • Houston, TX, United States
  • 09-18-14

Interesting …

I watched the 2006 film version with Ed Norton and Naomi Watts and thoroughly enjoyed the adaptation. Somewhere I read in a review that the adaptation had the familiar Hollywood gloss and the book was somewhat different. Finally, I got a deal at Audible and I dived in.

This was my first Maugham and I enjoyed the period setting of this novel in the colonial Far East. The character of Kitty Garstin, a self-absorbed socialite is a character I despised. The story revolves around her infidelity with a dashing but unscrupulous married diplomat and the luckless husband, Walter. There are some wonderful quotes in this book that makes you read it out twice. They stick in your mind long after the story has died. As Waddington, an alcoholic diplomat says to Kitty,

“Some of us look for the Way in opium and some in God, some of us in whiskey and some in love. It is all the same Way and it leads nowhither.”

In summary, the words within the book are stronger than the story and there lies the strength of Maugham’s writing. There are no characters in this book other than perhaps Waddington, who captures your imagination as a progressive, cohabiting with a noble Chinese woman. The rest are thoroughly rotten in their own way. At the end, you even wonder if Kitty finally does find salvation through her experiences.

This is a good book and I recommend it.

20 of 23 people found this review helpful

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  • Story
  • Nou
  • Midlothian, TX, United States
  • 11-15-16

Even better than I remembered.

I had forgotten this book brought forth so many emotions for me. There were parts I didn't remember reading the first time around. I thought it was good then, read for school, now even better as I understand the meaning due to age and (i hope) wisdom.

Kate Reading is one of my favorite narrators. A must listen of a great classic story.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

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.

13 of 16 people found this review helpful

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  • Eunique
  • Sagamore Hills, Oh United States
  • 01-18-08

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.

15 of 19 people found this review helpful