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

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  31,167 ratings  ·  3,054 reviews
Set in England and Hong Kong in the 1920s, The Painted Veil is the story of the beautiful, but love-starved Kitty Fane.

When her husband discovers her adulterous affair, he forces her to accompany him to the heart of a cholera epidemic. Stripped of the British society of her youth and the small but effective society she fought so hard to attain in Hong Kong, she is compelle
Paperback, 246 pages
Published November 14th 2006 by Vintage (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 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 Portrait 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, because it provided justification for the great change in Kitty's attitude toward Walter - you could actually see it happening, and why.

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)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Rating details
Sort: Default
It had been a long time since I read one of the classics. When I saw 'The Painted Veil' on sale at, I thought it would be a nice change of pace. I wasn't wrong. This book proved to be far better than I expected.

'The Painted Veil' is set in England and China, taking place in the 1920's. It is a story of love, betrayal, revenge and redemption. I definitely wasn't prepared for some of the twists and turns that this story took, but I enjoyed every minute.

Kitty Fane moved to Hong Kong wit
Jim Fonseca
Jul 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: british-authors
Wonderful writing and a good read from Maugham. I had not read him lately so I forgot how good a writer he is.

The basic story is of a beautiful young British woman who has “played the field” too long. She’s now 25 and her plainer, younger sister is engaged. In desperation the main character marries an MD bacteriologist who takes her to Hong Kong where he works as a scientist.

Here’s a wedding proposal for you:

She: “I think I like you very much. You must give me time to get used to you.”
He: “The
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, feeling again and again, thoughts and emotions arising from a past negative event. For example, wife learns husba
Emily May
Apr 27, 2012 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
Will Byrnes
Feb 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
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
Petra X
Oct 27, 2013 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.

Joe Valdez
Aug 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction-general
The Painted Veil is W. Somerset Maugham on speed dial. Published in 1925, it falls between two masterworks I've read from the prolific British novelist and playwright: Of Human Bondage in 1915 and The Razor's Edge in 1944, and while providing snapshots of well-developed characters and a compelling story that spans the globe, it's a triumph of telling over showing and in many ways feels more like the treatment for a movie than it does a complete novel. But Maugham in a slower gear is more compell ...more
Jeffrey Keeten
”They saw the white china knob of the handle slowly turn. They had heard no one walk along the verandah. It was terrifying to see that silent motion. A minute passed and there was no sound. Then, with the ghastliness of the supernatural, in the same stealthy, noiseless, and horrifying manner, they saw the white china knob of the handle at the window turn also. Kitty, her nerves failing her, opened her mouth to scream; but, seeing what she was going to do, he swiftly put his hand over it and her ...more
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
The Painted Veil is a remarkable golden oldie. Published in 1925 for the first time, it had slightly different approach to stories in the sense that the author punched a good story into 246 pages and said more with his economy of words, than 1000+-page novels.

Less known than his masterpiece Of Human Bondage, this 1925 Somerset Maugham novel rips at your emotions with its portrayal of an adulterous wife. When the bacteriologist husband of Kitty Fane learns of her infidelity, he
Tea Jovanović
Mar 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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... :)
Apr 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
Beautiful book, beautifully written. A gem.
I've been looking for more books of Somerset Maugham but I can't find them in the stores in the UK. Will order online then...
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
Jan 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
A rare instance when the movie is a lot better than the book. The movie is lovely. The book was just okay.
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 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
Feb 24, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature

الخيانة ذنب ثقيل لا يطهرها الا العمل الجماعى و انكار الذات و مساعدة الغير حتى لو كان فى أرض الوباء حيث نتطهر من ذنوبنا بوضع أرواحنا على كف الرحمن
Apr 24, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Наталия Янева
Apr 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: in-english
Когато петите на удавника докоснат пясъчното дъно, той неистово се бори да достигне отново повърхността. Когато пред теб няма път, започваш да се оглеждаш за път по-трескаво от всякога. Когато си достигнал до края, се завръщаш към началото.

„Цветният воал“ е роман за проглеждането. Стилът на Моъм тук е ефирен, прецизен и лаконичен. Липсата на излишна орнаментика и допълнителни безсъдържателни линии и описания още повече откроява болезнеността на сюжета. Не съществува нищо друго, освен тези двама
Jason Koivu
Jun 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
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)
Maria Espadinha
Apr 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
O Véu de Entrelinhas

Que dizer sobre este livro?!...

Vou dedicar-lhe algumas linhas e - inspirada pelo título - um véu de entrelinhas:

Aqui há Ele, Ela e Cólera!

Cólera emocional e Cólera real.

Há falso amor, paixão, traição e vingança.

E há crescimento e um final irritante que castigo roubando-lhe uma estrela!

Mas enfim... admito que adorei! ;)

Nota: os mais curiosos, i.e. , os interessados em saber a que crescimento me refiro, podem passar à próxima Review.
Quanto aos restantes, sugiro que fiquem por a
Lucy Banks
Dec 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A casual read, that turned into a thoroughly enjoyable experience!

I only had this book because of my late Aunt, whose shelves were every bit as overflowing with books as my own. I'd obviously heard of the author, but really wasn't familiar with his style, so went in with no expectations whatsoever.

Oh my gosh, what a pleasant surprise to find out that it was utterly fantastic.

It's about Kitty, a young woman who has somehow found herself married to a man she's not even fond of, much less in love
Nov 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
The anatomy and consequences of an affair.

First published in 1925, this documents the sad and short marriage of Kitty and Walter and how Kitty’s affair with Charles Townsend changed all of their lives dramatically.

Maugham’s ability to convey emotion and the intricacies of relationship dynamics borders on the uncanny. The characterization is three dimensional and his omnipresent narration, describing minute thoughts and responses, is superb.

Kitty was a promising debutante at 18 but an increasing
Maria Clara
May 27, 2016 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 24, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
the painted veil is the veil of illusion
beautifully written novel, a story of love, infidelity, and the ability to change and forgive
love is so strange, causing serious suffering sometimes
a quiet, educated, committed man fall in love with a beautiful woman who has no affection for him
a woman he realizes her vanity and superficiality, but yet still wants to marry her
Kitty Fane the heroine was not a likeable character at all at the beginning
but her gradual change and awareness of herself and her
Jun 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
Το έργο είναι ένα σχετικά μικρό σε έκταση κείμενο, ευκολοδιάβαστο, γραμμένο με μία αβίαστη μελαγχολικότητα, η οποία μου θύμισε κάτι από τον αγαπημένο μου Ντ. Χ. Λώρενς. Παρόλες τις όμορφες περιγραφές των τοπίων, τις οποίες βέβαια χρησιμοποιεί με φειδώ- καθώς τις χρησιμοποίει επιδραστικά προς την ιστορία-, το κείμενο επικεντρώνεται στους χαρακτήρες -κυρίως της Κίτι- τα αισθήματα τους και τις μεταξύ τους σχέσεις.
Οι ήρωες είναι τόσο ανθρώπινοι, τόσο ελαττωματικοί ως πλάσματα, που μοιάζουν να τους κ
Sep 23, 2011 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
May 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
I read this as a buddy read with my mother. This review is based on the reading notes I shared with her via e-mail. It was my third novel from Maugham; all have been excellent. Although he seems to have gone out of fashion, he was well respected in his time and at least a few of his books remain widely read. His titles are often taken from literary sources; here the title and epigraph are from a Shelley poem. Also, he explains in the preface that he got the idea for the plot from Dante’s Purgato ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
  • 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 the 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
  • Mariana
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
“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.” 1248 likes
“If a man hasn't what's necessary to make a woman love him, it's his fault, not hers.” 624 likes
More quotes…