Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Painted Veil” as Want to Read:
The Painted Veil
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Painted Veil

3.9  ·  Rating Details ·  26,467 Ratings  ·  2,594 Reviews
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 B

Paperback, 240 pages
Published January 25th 1979 by Penguin Books (first published April 1925)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Painted Veil, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

Keely There are a lot of differences. Both are to be savored and both are beautiful works of art. The movie is much more romantic and scenic. It takes the…moreThere are a lot of differences. Both are to be savored and both are beautiful works of art. The movie is much more romantic and scenic. It takes the story out into the open and does much more with the political situation in China at the time and the cholera epidemic. The book is more introspective and profound. I would say that the biggest difference is that the book does not give you the great romantic reconciliation between Walter and Kitty that the movie depicted. The book is almost completely about the workings of Kitty's mind and her transformation in the way she sees Walter. I found that to be priceless and I wanted it to keep reading it forever. The depth of characterization is as remarkable as what Henry James did with Portrait of a Lady -- I almost felt that Maugham used that book as a model in the way that some of the most wonderful and moving passages of this book are nothing more than an examination of Kitty's thought processes. I agree with Carol below that the book is a must read. Still, the movie is one of the most under-valued Hollywood movies ever made and should have been up for Oscars galore. It increased the scope of the book in a very effective way and went into a great deal of detail about Walter's work on the typhoid epidemic and water crisis in that area of China. It can be difficult to translate onto screen what goes on inside of the characters' minds, especially when that is the focus of the book, but I think what the movie did by bringing in the details of what Walter was trying to do in his work was a smart substitute as one of the reasons for the great the change in Kitty.

The other big change is that Kitty isn't completely redeemed when she returns to Tching-yen after Walter's death, and there are new encounters with Charlie and also his wife which almost give the impression that they were complicit in his love affairs.(less)
Keely Hi, Mary - If you mean a comparison between the movie and the book, browse the other questions about this book and you'll see I answered in detail. I…moreHi, Mary - If you mean a comparison between the movie and the book, browse the other questions about this book and you'll see I answered in detail. I loved both. Any difficulty finding my remarks, let me know. (less)
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Will Byrnes
Feb 25, 2010 Will Byrnes rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This short masterpiece tells of love, betrayal, and a search for real meaning in life. Kitty is an attractive middle class Brit. The only real future for her is to marry well. But when she finds none of her suitors quite up to her hopes, and with her younger sister becoming engaged, she succumbs to the pressure and agrees to marry Walter, a man who adores her, but whom she finds boring. He takes her with him to Hong Kong where he works as a bacteriologist.

There is much here about class. One hero
Emily May
Apr 27, 2012 Emily May rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Emily May by: Tatiana
Shelves: classics, 2012, favourites

This is so good.

The Painted Veil, first published in 1925, is now considered a classic. That fact - combined with the cover, description and the reviews - had me switching into classic-reading mode. That might sound like I've gone a bit mad, but I mean that I approach classics with a different frame of mind and a greater tolerance for slow-moving plots, airy-fairy language and characters I cannot relate that much to. You know what I mean, you cannot expect fast-paced action if you want to appre
Petra Eggs
Oct 27, 2013 Petra Eggs rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The original review was deleted by GR. This book is about the time when society women didn’t work, especially not in the hot and fetid colonies, and this was set in Hong Kong. They sat at home and painted their nails and dreamed of love in the afternoon and sometimes they did it too. Kitty did, she had an affair and her husband found out. He was a good man, as she was to find out, but once crossed, his soul was dark with thoughts of the ultimate revenge – death, either socially or in reality.

Jul 19, 2016 Perry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Resentment's Presentiment
The time will come
When you'll be blue
Your cheatin' heart will tell on you...

Hank Williams, 1952

You'll look for me but baby I'll be gone.
This is all I gotta say to you woman:
Your time is gonna come

Led Zeppelin, 1969

The English word "resent" or "resentment" comes from the Old French resentir, meaning to "feel again, feel in turn" (13c.) That is, to replay and feel again and again and again the thoughts and emotions arising from a negative event that's already happened/af
Jan 02, 2008 Jessica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: friends, but I recommend the movie MORE!
I agree whole-heartedly with other reviewers -- the movie was better! I saw the movie first and loved it. It is a brilliant and beautiful love story -- and who can resist Edward Norton's stoic, yet smoldering interpretation of Walter.

You can appreciate the movie better once you read the book and get to know the characters as they were originally intended. The movie does a good job of interpreting those characters honestly and uses dialogue verbatim from the book. But, in the movie, Walter and K
So I assume you have read the book description and know approximately what the book is about. This description ends with the words: "The Painted Veil is a beautifully written affirmation of the human capacity to grow, to change, and to forgive." Well, I would say that this can certainly be debated! This is an ideal book for a book club; there is much that can be discussed. Views will differ.

Some people find this book a huge disappointment. Others like it very much. So how do you go about decidi
Dec 11, 2009 Tatiana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, 2011, nostalgia
There is something infinitely fascinating to me about stories like this - a clever, passionate man falling in love with a pretty but fickle woman who, he knows, will never understand and appreciate his worth, and yet, he can't resist. This is why I have always obsessed over Gone With the Wind and enjoyed reading The Painted Veil once again.

I still can't decide if I like the novel or the latest movie adaptation more.

The movie gives food to my romantic what-could-have-been fantasies.

But I can't n
Apr 24, 2012 Catie rated it really liked it
Recommended to Catie by: Tatiana
There’s something so affecting about tragedy created by social mores – tragedy that only exists because it’s born in a certain place and a certain time. While reading this book I just kept thinking, what if? What if women were allowed to seek their own status and power and weren’t completely dependent on that of their husbands? What if girls weren’t isolated but allowed to travel and gain experience or an education? What if marriage were optional? What if divorce were a simple thing? But I guess ...more
Tea Jovanović
Jedna od meni najdražih Momovih knjiga... Potpuno zanemarena kod domaćih izdavača... Po ovom romanu snimljen je i divan film... Pokušavala sam godinama da animiram srpske izdavače da ga objavljuju, ali oni su jurili samo hitove sa bestseler lista... Ali ne gubim nadu... :)
Jason Koivu
Jun 29, 2012 Jason Koivu rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction

Maugham handles language beautifully, telling the nice, compact story of a vacuous socialite who doesn't take life serious enough and finds herself in a very serious situation.

His economy of word fails his purpose only once, but it is an important failure and mars The Painted Veil in a way that diminishes it enough to keep it from attaining the echelon of "masterpiece" status. Our heroine Kitty's transformation (view spoiler)
Alex ☣ Deranged KittyCat ☣

I'll start by saying that I had seen the movie before finding out that it was based on a book. And oh! how much I loved it! The casting was superb and I felt the chemistry between the main characters. Even now, I watch the movie every once in a while.

Then I found out there was the original book and I had to read it. After postponing it for quite some time, I finished reading it yesterday. Although the movie took some liberties from the book, I liked the latter, too.


Meet Kitty, a spoiled, self-ab
Review to come.
Luís C.
I literally devoured this short novel by Maugham. This was my second meeting with the author and certainly not the last. We met Kitty who married Walter Fane, more for a husband than by real affection. Walter is a man who does not speak much, feeling even less. The novel is centered on Kitty, about his feelings. And the least we can say is that at first, she is not really friendly. She is futile and selfish. This gene does not deceive her husband and she imagines that Townsend will accept withou ...more
Sep 23, 2011 Mayra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: excellent
I was so ready to fall head over heels for this book. I’ve always liked the 2006 movie and I just had no doubt in my mind this Maugham book sitting there in my shelf, beckoning, was just a thousand times better. I knew it in my bones this would be amazing.

Now that I’m finished I suppose I would be a gigantic liar if I said I’m not at least a little disappointed. And it’s definitely the movie’s fault. If I had never watched it, I’m sure I would have liked this book a million times better. But Nor
What do you do when you discover that the wife you love despite the fact that she is shallow as hell and obviously despises you is having an affair? For Walter Fane, a bacteriologist working in early-twentieth-century colonial Hong Kong, the choice is easy. Either he will divorce his wife, which will disgrace her and leave her destitute (she was never taught to work or be independent, having always been expected to make a brilliant marriage), or, as a penance, she will have to accompany him on a ...more
Maria Clara
May 27, 2016 Maria Clara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Qué difícil hacer una reseña cuando no te salen las palabras! A veces, al terminar de leer un libro, descubres que parte de los sentimientos que te ha generado la historia aún están en tu interior, como una fina cortina que se mece bajo una corriente invisible de aire. Y es entonces cuando tienes que desgranar esas emociones y cuando te quedas sin palabras; vacía, aún cuando la brisa aún sopla en tu interior.
Pues bien, dicho esto, poco más puedo decir: sencillamente es una historia hermosa, dulc
Oct 02, 2009 Hannah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, 2010-reads
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I've always been amazed at the effort the British took to maintain their aristocratic traditions in their distant colonies. The Painted Veil a beautifully written story about a young wife, Kitty Fane, who is brought to Hong Kong by her doctor husband in the 1920's. She doesn't love her husband so she soon falls in love and begins an affair with her husbands superior. It's the story of how one-sided relationships can lead to heartbreak for everyone involved. This is a sad and tragic story but sti ...more
Sep 30, 2008 Ruth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this as an audiobook, right after The Abstinence Teacher and Special Topics in Calamity Physics, both of which were so poorly written I couldn't finish them. Coming into Somerset Maughm's lucid prose was like being let out of a cage.
Tiffany Reisz
Mar 18, 2017 Tiffany Reisz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lovely. No idea why it was called "The Painted Veil" though. Ain't no painted veil in this book! I looked!
Set in 1920's England and Hong Kong, this sad classic tale tells the story of an extremely vain and spoiled young Kitty Fane who doesn't appreciate the love of a good husband until it's too late, but learns about love and forgiveness in the end. A really good book.
Jun 29, 2015 Virginia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
L'importante è amare, non essere amati. A quelli che ci amano non siamo nemmeno grati. Se non li amiamo sono solo un fastidio
Aug 18, 2007 Brian rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book shortly after I finished reading Maugham's "Of Human Bondage," and not too long after seeing (twice) the movie version starring Edward Norton and Naomi Watts. I found the story very interesting and the plot intriguing. I also found the differences between the film and book fascinating. I actually preferred the way the film version played out, relative to the main character Kitty Fain, the part played by Naomi Watts. Kitty has her faults but also finds redemption in both the film ...more
Tânia F
Foi uma leitura relâmpago e a confirmar Somerset Maugham como um dos meus escritores de eleição. Depois de ter lido há pouco tempo "Servidão Humana" seguiu-se "O Véu Pintado", há em comum nestas duas obras, a facto de Maugham conseguir transmitir ao leitor um profundo conhecimento da alma humana, das suas contradições, nas obras dele não costuma haver as personagens boazinhas ou mazinhas, acho que revemos um pouco de nós em cada uma das suas personagens, de achar que faríamos e pensaríamos o mes ...more
Nov 07, 2014 Carmo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: frança, vi-o-fime, bib-p
À semelhança de todas as mulheres da época, a mãe de Kitty educou-a para triunfar na sociedade. Um bom casamento – com um homem rico e com destaque social – era o sonho de todas as famílias. Era uma beldade e foi ensinada a seduzir para conquistar. Mimada e caprichosa foi descartando todos os pretendentes até perceber que tinha 25 anos, (estávamos na primeira metade do séc. xx) a sua irmã mais nova estava noiva, e Kitty corria o risco de ficar solteirona. Inadmissível para uma jovem de boas famí ...more
3.5 stars
beautiful love story.i loved both the novel and the movie....
the great difference between Kitty's shallow soul ,spoiled and selfish and Walter who believe in sacrificial service and volunteers to go work in remote rural village under siege from cholera.
while Walter is madly in love with her...

Kitty married to Walter whom she does not love and she has nothing in common with him...the novel is an emotionally charged journey...the
devastating emotional consequences of infidelity and betrayal...
the r
4.5 stars. A forbidden love affair. Analysis of gender roles. Philosophizing over the truth of a religious path in life. Criticism of class structure. Woohoo, I am THERE. This novel has it all. Before I get to the content and the societal critique this book presents, I need to say this book is beautiful. The words, the phrases, the descriptions and the character growth is amazing. Maugham is an artist and for nothing else, these are reasons to read this book.

I now realize that my high school fa
To be honest it was only the last few chapters of this book that really redeemed it for me and pushed it up to three stars from two. Before that, had it not been for a lovely turn of phrase now and then, and the articulate expression of the writing, I really might have thought this done by a /fantastically/ average old fashioned romance novel writer. The story is a quite run-of-the-mill morality tale, one that fills our shelves even more vapidly nowadays in the chick-lit genre. Shallow, frivolou ...more
Apr 24, 2008 Rose rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The film would have you believe that The Painted Veil is about the relationship between a man, Walter Fane, and his young wife, Kitty, but the novel centers on Kitty. At 25, Kitty Fane makes the mistake of her life when, in a panic at the thought of her younger sister marrying before she does, Kitty marries the next available suitor. Walter, a serious and dedicated bacteriologist, is a terrible match for impulsive and frivolous Kitty. They move to China, where Walter spends his days working as a ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
  • Brat Farrar
  • Feasting the Heart: Fifty-Two Commentaries for the Air
  • My Father's Tears and Other Stories
  • The Rector's Daughter
  • Daily Strength for Daily Needs
  • Three Complete Novels: Howards End, A Room with a View, Where Angels Fear to Tread
  • The Lizard Cage
  • The Etiquette of Illness: What to Say When You Can't Find the Words
  • The Tortoise and the Hare
  • The Bite of Mango
  • Lost in Translation
  • The Shooting Party
  • Framley Parsonage (Chronicles of Barsetshire #4)
  • The Scapegoat
  • The Glimpses of the Moon
  • Felicia's Journey
  • South Riding
  • Green Mountain, White Cloud: A Novel of Love in the Ming Dynasty
William Somerset Maugham was born in Paris in 1874. He spoke French even before he spoke a word of English, a fact to which some critics attribute the purity of his style.

His parents died early and, after an unhappy boyhood, which he recorded poignantly in Of Human Bondage, Maugham became a qualified physician. But writing was his true vocation. For ten years before his first success, he almost l
More about W. Somerset Maugham...

Share This Book

“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.” 1178 likes
“If a man hasn't what's necessary to make a woman love him, it's his fault, not hers.” 594 likes
More quotes…