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The Painted Veil

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  37,441 ratings  ·  3,702 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)
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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 s…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. . . . Another big difference in the book 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)

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Average rating 3.94  · 
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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
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
Emily May
Apr 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Emily May by: Tatiana
Shelves: classics, 2012
This was 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. I tend to approach classics with a different frame of mind and a greater tolerance for slow-moving plots, complex language, and characters I cannot relate to that much.

As it happens, I need not have bothered.

This book hooked me from the very first page where Kitty is caught in the bedroom with her
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
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
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 her
Petra - trying to lose weight is major deprivation
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
Dec 11, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: classics, nostalgia, 2011, 2021
So, let me summarize it now, in 2021 - a clever, passionate man falls in love with a pretty but fickle woman who, he knows, will never understand him or appreciate his worth, then he basically buys her, because she has to be supported somehow, and there are no other takers. And then, when she takes a lover who she is actually attracted to, he forces her to go to the cholera-ridden country so that they both will die.

There is still some interesting character development in Kitty, but I am not as e
The film "The Painted Veil", taken from the novel, was a dazzling one and to prolong the magic, I threw myself on the story from the last frame. At this point conquered by the film, the quality of the images, the beauty of the landscapes, the interpretation of a rare sensitivity by Naomi Watts and Edward Norton (Ah, this unforgettable scene where the disunited couple finally meet again and find their way back to life. matrimonial bed), not to mention the exceptional music of Alexandre Desplat. I ...more
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
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 infidelit
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...
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
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
Feb 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Rating 4.5

Why did I wait so long to read this one? I've been wanting to read this for so long, but so many books. I had a copy of the movie version, but refused to watch it until I read the book. And so the book and movie sat for years. Recently I was sick in bed and wanted to watch a movie and finally gave in to to this one. At the end of the movie, I immediately went to my library online and grabbed the audio and started it the next day. Guess you always need some kind of motivation.

Kitty Fan
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
Oct 24, 2017 rated it really 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
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)
Apr 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone keen on the British Colonial experience or an exploration of Maughan's skill as a novelist.
Recommended to Quo by: Local library book discussion selection
Shelves: british-lit, reviewed
Early on in Somerset Maugham's novel, The Painted Veil, one of the more interesting but peripheral characters, a District Commissioner named Waddington, stationed up-country from British colonial Hong Kong at Mei-Tan Fu, an outpost plagued by cholera intones: "I've asked myself if you're both here to commit suicide?" The couple in question are Walter Fane, M.D., a bacteriologist & his wife Kitty and they have recently come from Hong Kong to this infected site because Walter has chosen it as a k ...more
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
Sep 23, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: excellent, own
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
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
L A i N E Y ~back in a bit~
This is as much a love story as Gone with the Wind was a love story to me...

As in, not at all.

False advertising.
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
Dec 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Susan's Reviews
May 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
So incredibly topical during this COVID pandemic.

This classic tale of love and betrayal is set in the early 1900s: Kitty Garstin accepts Dr. Walter Fane's marriage proposal because she didn't want her sister to beat her to the altar.

Kitty is vain, pretty and foolish. Walter adores her, but her feeble head is turned by a British expatriate, Charles Townsend, a notorious womanizer who is stationed in Shanghai.

Walter is shattered and disillusioned when he learns of Kitty's affair. He turns cruel
Feb 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
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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

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