The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham

Kitty is quite used to men falling all over her.  After all that is the way it has been all her life.  Proposal after proposal is turned down as really, Kitty will know when the right one comes along and she knows her astonishing beauty will give her choice of whatever man she wants.  Yet as the years go by, suddenly Kitty finds the proposals coming less and less, her mother has pretty much given up on Kitty ever getting married – so when the quiet and king Walter Fane finally works up the courage to ask Kitty for her hand, she immediately says yes.

As the newly weds settle into their lives together Kitty finds Walter nothing but dull.  At a party she is introduced to the handsome Charles Townsend, and he is as captured with her and she is of him.  They start an affair, but when Walter discovers the relationship he challenges his wife to either have Charles propose to her and then he will grant her a divorce, or accompany him to an area of China where the cholera epidemic is strong and he has been called in to help. 

What Kitty decides, is the beginning of a woman’s long journey of finding what she is made of and what it is like to truly love.

The original US cover

I am honestly going to say that when I chose this audio from audible.com, I really didn’t know what I would think of.  I am not a romance reader.  I don’t like flighty women characters.   And I struggle with many of the early 20th century books.  I chose this audio because the price was right and the sample narration sounded good.  (plus I am actively making an effort to read some of the older known books for a well-rounded reading life).

Ok…. now that the “details” are out-of-the-way.  Let’s review… shall we?

Kitty was not a likable character.  She was shallow and self-centered.  She liked men fawning over her and really knew no other life.  Walter on the other hand was an incredible character – and had incredible character.  Though quite and socially awkward, he did truly love Kitty and provided her a comfortable home with want of nothing. 

As this book proceeds on to the point where Kitty is left with the decision to either marry Charles or go with Walter, this particular part of the book was quite enjoyable for me.  I loved to see Kitty attempt to do what she thinks is best for herself.  The result of this point of the book is really where the story takes off. 

With great detail I started to see a change in Kitty’s character… almost a “By George, I think she’s got it!” sort of change as Kitty starts to really understand life, and men, and see things in a different. softer light. 

In the end I was impressed with this audio and with the story line.  I am so glad I went against my prejudices I listed above and went ahead with it.  I would suggest this to anyone.  It’s not so much as a romance as it is historical fiction.  Kitty is not so much flighty, as she is uneducated.  As far as the early 20th century read, it did not feel outdated to me, I was able to comprehend the time and the places.  I will be watching the movie which I have just requested from Netflix.

Narrator Kate Reading does an amazing job of capturing the sometimes whiny voice of Kitty, the patient and paced voice of Walter, and the boisterous self-assured voice of Charles. 

Amazon Rating

The 2011 WHERE Are You Reading map has been updated to include The Painted Veil

I purchased this audio off audible.com

21 thoughts on “The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham

  1. I need to find the version of this read by Kate Reading. The one I got from my library was someone else and not as good! I decided to wait until I found it. I’m glad this won you over. Maugham is wonderful in sounding very contemporary when it comes to his prose, and his writing is simple and straightforward, but can read on different levels if you want. I think most people end up hating Walter, but I really love him. He makes some bad choices, but I still really feel for him. I also like the transition Kitty makes, because you’re right, she’s not a nice person at all!

    Maugham is one of my very favorite authors and this is one of my very favorite books by him. If you want to read more, I highly recommend Theatre or Mrs. Craddock.

    1. Thanks for the great comment Amanda…. this is my first Maugham and I want to read more. I really liked Walter too…. he was good to her and she threw him away.

      Thanks for the recommendation… I am going to look for that one 😀

    1. Shes not though Meg, thats what I thought going in to the read and while she is not likable, she cant be for this book – and as it turns out she is pretty smart int he end. 🙂

  2. stacybuckeye

    I listened to this one on audio too and really liked it. Kitty is an interesting character.

  3. I just watched this movie like three days ago! Slow moving, but intellectually entertaining. The movie definitely had me toying with reading the novel, and it looks like I should!

  4. I read this book some years ago, Sheila. I really enjoyed it but this is the only ever instance where I have prefered the film to the book. In fact the film is my favourite EVER film! The ending it slightly different in both too. i would definitely recommend seeing the film, it is absolutley STUNNING!

  5. I’m glad you enjoyed the audiobook. I watched the DVD a couple of years ago and came across is last night while looking for another DVD. I may have to watch it again soon .

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