dara's Reviews > The Painted Veil

The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham
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's review
Aug 04, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: classics, read-in-2009, reviewed
Read in August, 2009

The Painted Veil had me completely absorbed until the focus shifted solely towards Kitty. It is easy to hate the main character of this novel. She is shallow, vain, and selfish. She is concerned only with her own amusements and marries only to be wed before her younger and more homely sister. She would fit perfectly in Pride & Prejudice. She has no redeeming qualities and feels self-righteous even while having an affair.

I watched the movie first and so (naturally) I was enamored with her husband Walter (played by an intense Edward Norton) before I even started the book. What an undeserving little bitch Kitty is--even more so in the novel than in the movie adaptation, which took quite a bit of liberty with the ending. Surprisingly, I think the changes were for the better. In the movie, there is some redemption; in the book, Kitty is a cunt through and through. Even when she has herself convinced that she's changed, she only repeats the same mistakes.

Maugham throws away a near perfect character, pushing empty-headed Kitty into the foreground instead. The emphasis on her trivial conversations and poor attempts to be of use bored me. I only read in hopes of learning more about Walter the few times he briefly crosses her mind.

Still, the conversation in which Walter confronts Kitty is enough to earn a four star rating. The confrontation takes place so early on that it is even more of a letdown when Walter fades into the background for the majority of the remaining novel. So much wasted potential! Walter's brutal honesty should have torn Kitty down and made her despise herself, but unfortunately, I guess stupid people don't change.


Because it was referenced at a rather crucial moment of the novel without any further explanation, I've decided to include Oliver Goldsmith's "An Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog":

Good people all, of every sort,
Give ear unto my song;
And if you find it wondrous short,
It cannot hold you long.

In Islington there was a man,
Of whom the world might say
That still a godly race he ran,
Whene'er he went to pray.

A kind and gentle heart he had,
To comfort friends and foes;
The naked every day he clad,
When he put on his clothes.

And in that town a dog was found,
As many dogs there be,
Both mongrel, puppy, whelp and hound,
And curs of low degree.

This dog and man at first were friends;
But when a pique began,
The dog, to gain some private ends,
Went mad and bit the man.

Around from all the neighbouring streets
The wondering neighbours ran,
And swore the dog had lost his wits,
To bite so good a man.

The wound it seemed both sore and sad
To every Christian eye;
And while they swore the dog was mad,
They swore the man would die.

But soon a wonder came to light,
That showed the rogues they lied:
The man recovered of the bite,
The dog it was that died.

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Quotes dara Liked

W. Somerset Maugham
“She says it's really not very flattering to her that the women who fall in love with her husband are so uncommonly second-rate.”
W. Somerset Maugham, The Painted Veil

W. Somerset Maugham
“I had no illusions about you,' he said. 'I knew you were silly and frivolous and empty-headed. But I loved you. I knew that your aims and ideals were vulgar and commonplace. But I loved you. I knew that you were second-rate. But I loved you. It's comic when I think how hard I tried to be amused by the things that amused you and how anxious I was to hide from you that I wasn't ignorant and vulgar and scandal-mongering and stupid. I knew how frightened you were of intelligence and I did everything I could to make you think me as big a fool as the rest of the men you knew. I knew that you'd only married me for convenience. I loved you so much, I didn't care. Most people, as far as I can see, when they're in love with someone and the love isn't returned feel that they have a grievance. They grow angry and bitter. I wasn't like that. I never expected you to love me, I didn't see any reason that you should. I never thought myself very lovable. I was thankful to be allowed to love you and I was enraptured when now and then I thought you were pleased with me or when I noticed in your eyes a gleam of good-humored affection. I tried not to bore you with my love; I knew I couldn't afford to do that and I was always on the lookout for the first sign that you were impatient with my affection. What most husbands expect as a right I was prepared to receive as a favor.”
W. Somerset Maugham, The Painted Veil

W. Somerset Maugham
“I'm afraid you've thought me a bigger fool than I am.”
W. Somerset Maugham, The Painted Veil

W. Somerset Maugham
“A bird in the hand was worth two in the bush, he told her, to which she retorted that a proverb was the last refuge of the mentally destitute.”
W. Somerset Maugham, The Painted Veil

W. Somerset Maugham
“Vaguely, as when you are studying a foreign language and read a page which at first you can make nothing of, till a word or a sentence gives you a clue; and on a sudden suspicion, as it were, of the sense flashes across your troubled wits, vaguely she gained an inkling into the workings of Walter's mind. It was like a dark and ominous landscape seen by a flash of lightning and in a moment hidden again by the night. She shuddered at what she saw.”
W. Somerset Maugham, The Painted Veil

W. Somerset Maugham
“Was it necessary to tell me that you wanted nothing in the world but me?'

The corners of his mouth drooped peevishly.

Oh, my dear, it's rather hard to take quite literally the things a man says when he's in love with you.'

Didn't you mean them?'

At the moment.”
W. Somerset Maugham, The Painted Veil

W. Somerset Maugham
“They were talking more distantly than if they were strangers who had just met, for if they had been he would have been interested in her just because of that, and curious, but their common past was a wall of indifference between them. Kitty knew too well that she had done nothing to beget her father's affection, he had never counted in the house and had been taken for granted, the bread-winner who was a little despised because he could provide no more luxuriously for his family; but she had taken for granted that he loved her just because he was her father, and it was a shock to discover that his heart was empty of feeling for her. She had known that they were all bored by him, but it had never occurred to her that he was equally bored by them. He was as ever kind and subdued, but the sad perspicacity which she had learnt in suffering suggested to her that, though he probably never acknowledged it to himself and never would, in his heart he disliked her.”
W. Somerset Maugham, The Painted Veil

W. Somerset Maugham
“I have an idea that the only thing which makes it possible to regard this world we live in without disgust is the beauty which now and then men create out of the chaos. The pictures they paint, the music they compose, the books they write, and the lives they lead. Of all these the richest in beauty is the beautiful life. That is the perfect work of art.”
W. Somerset Maugham, The Painted Veil

W. Somerset Maugham
“It was like making a blunder at a party; there was nothing to do about it, it was dreadfully mortifying, but it showed a lack of sense to ascribe too much importance to it.”
W. Somerset Maugham, The Painted Veil

W. Somerset Maugham
“She was a fool and he knew it and because he loved her it had made no difference.”
W. Somerset Maugham, The Painted Veil
tags: love

W. Somerset Maugham
“She could not admit but that he had remarkable qualities, sometimes she thought that there was even in him a strange and unattractive greatness; it was curious then that she could not love him, but loved still a man whose worthlessness was now so clear to her.”
W. Somerset Maugham, The Painted Veil

W. Somerset Maugham
“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.”
W. Somerset Maugham, The Painted Veil

W. Somerset Maugham
“One can be very much in love with a woman without wishing to spend the rest of one's life with her.”
W. Somerset Maugham, The Painted Veil

W. Somerset Maugham
“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.”
W. Somerset Maugham, The Painted Veil

W. Somerset Maugham
“If a man hasn't what's necessary to make a woman love him, it's his fault, not hers.”
W. Somerset Maugham, The Painted Veil

Reading Progress

07/21/2009 page 64
26.02% "This book is sexy already. (It doesn't hurt that Edward Norton was in the movie.) I wish I had started reading it sooner."
07/21/2009 page 102
41.46% "I think I would read this in one sitting if not for being preoccupied with packing. I need to read Maugham more often."
07/31/2009 page 232
94.31% "So close to finishing... so preoccupied by things I have to do."
08/01/2009 page 257
100% "I have to say I prefer the changes made to the ending in the movie."
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Ally The brand new group - Bright Young Things - is discussing The Painted Veil throughout December. Its the perfect place to discuss your favourite books and authors from the early 20th Century, why not take a look...


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