Diane's Reviews > The Painted Veil

The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham
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May 23, 12

bookshelves: china, movie-adaptation
Read in May, 2012

This is another beautiful but tragic novel that was so powerful in places that I had to set the book down, stare out the window and ponder the situation. The story involves an unhappily married couple, Kitty and Walter, and how Walter seeks his unusual revenge when he learns his wife had an affair. He gives Kitty a choice: either travel with him to a remote Chinese village to deal with a cholera epidemic (Walter is a bacteriologist) or he'll file for divorce. Kitty realizes that her husband is hoping she'll die in the epidemic, but she's so unhappy that she chooses to go along.

The best part of the book is how Kitty slowly grows up; she realizes what a good man her husband is and she tries to repent, hoping he will forgive her. What helps Kitty change is her volunteer work at a Catholic orphanage, and she longs for the kind of joy she sees in the nuns.

I wanted to read "The Painted Veil" after seeing the 2006 movie (starring Edward Norton and Naomi Watts), but the ending of the book is somewhat different, and I admit that the movie ending was better. I get the sense that Maugham wasn't sure exactly where to end the book, because there were about four different spots where he could have finished, but he kept trailing on.

Despite my minor complaints, Maugham's prose is so good and his characters are so real that I plan on reading more of his books this year.
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Cecily I preferred the film as well (unusual for me).


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