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The Painted Veil
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message 1: by Diane, Armchair Tour Guide (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane | 12851 comments Start discussion here for The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham.

Heather Fineisen Love this one!

message 3: by Diane, Armchair Tour Guide (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane | 12851 comments Summary
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 compelled by her awakening conscience to reassess her life and learn how to love.

The Painted Veil is a beautifully written affirmation of the human capacity to grow, to change, and to forgive.

Discussion Questions (from
1. Did you like The Painted Veil? Why or why not?

2. Kitty Fane. Walter Fane. Charles Townsend. Dorothy Townsend. Mr. Garstin and Mrs. Garstin. Waddington and the Manchu lady. How are each of these people similar/different? How do their relationships differ? Who is this novel about?

3. Kitty. In what ways did Kitty change through the novel?

4. Themes. What is the theme of The Painted Veil? (Some possibilities: Adultery; understanding one’s self/growing up; understanding others; reconciliation and forgiveness; Feminism.

5. The 1920s. What impact has the era (1920s) on the novel? How would this have been different (if a similar story were even possible) in modern times?

6. England. Hong Kong. Southern China. What is the significance of each location? How did each location change Kitty? The novel comes full circle by returning to each location as the novel winds down. Why?

(from Book Rags)
7. Compare and contrast the characters of Walter and Mr. Garstin, and their respective relationships to Kitty.

8. What is the quality the nuns have which distinguishes them from everyone else in Kitty's mind?

9. Is the novel an endorsement of Christianity?

10. What is Maugham's attitude towards Eastern religions, as depicted in this book? What is the significance of this?

11. What is the significance of Walter's dying words?

12. Explain the relationship between Waddington and Kitty.

13. What is the new path Kitty has discovered that is mentioned in the closing words of the novel?

message 4: by Missy J (last edited Aug 04, 2014 08:34PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Missy J (missyj333) | 232 comments This is my first time joining in the book discussion in 2014!

Diane, I’ve noticed that you have provided questions for each book we “travelled through” this year and I think it’s fantastic! I can’t wait to discuss and answer some of these questions.

As a person living in Hong Kong (although not Chinese ethnically), I couldn’t help but join in for the China book this August! At first I was hesitant when I found out that “The Painted Veil” was a story set in Hong Kong and about British people instead of Chinese people. How can such a book be representative of a huge country like China? But I actually really enjoyed the book! Some of my answers to the questions above:

1. I did like The Painted Veil, here is my review. I mostly enjoyed to witness the development of Kitty’s character.

2. & 3. This novel is mostly about Kitty. Her relationship to her mother wasn’t particularly good as her mother was only focused on having pretty daughters to marry off to men in the upper class. Due to that kind of upbringing Kitty turned out to be the person she was when she married Walter (just to keep up with her sister) and when she started the affair with Charles. But Kitty’s relationship to the Mother Superior in Mei Tan Fu somehow gave Kitty something that her own mother didn’t provide and it improved her relationship with men slightly, but at least towards the end of the novel she knows what she wants in life.

4. Themes: how one’s upbringing and relationship to one’s parents affects the way an adult deals with other people and relationships. It’s never too late to change.
Actually I still keeping questioning myself why was this novel called “The Painted Veil”? I can’t seem to decipher the symbolism of it and how it is linked to the novel. If anyone has any thoughts about this please let me know.

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6. From my view, England represents the origin of Kitty. Hong Kong as a city where East meets West, is Kitty’s entry to the other side of the world, where she is sure to undergo change. Southern China is the complete opposite of what her life was in England and allows her to discover more about herself and mature as a woman. It’s interesting that the novel comes full circle by returning to each location, but on top of that towards the end (view spoiler)

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8. Innocence? Not having a hidden agenda when dealing with men.

9. I was wondering about this while I read the book and am interested on what others think. I don’t think that Maugham aimed to convert people to Christianity with this book. To me he wanted to show how Christianity in a foreign place brought indirectly “development” in the form of medical care for the cholera patients, a home for orphans…and it also brought a kind of “development” into Kitty’s life.

10. Through Waddington, Tao/Dao (The Way) is mentioned several times in the book. This is also one of the reason I don’t think that Maugham tried to endorse Christianity. He simply showed that in different cultures there are different domineering thoughts and that they all provide solace for people to make sense of the meaning of life. The nuns find meaning in Catholicism, while the Chinese find it in the Dao.

11. Great question. I already returned the book to the library, so I don’t know the exact phrase of his dying words, but I thought that it was a very “hallucinatory” thing to say. Does the dog refer to Walter himself?

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Nabse Bamato (wwwgoodreadscomnabse_bamato) | 16 comments Just started this today - am hoping to be able to contribute later in the month. It's starting off well. Thanks for being the stimulus for me to read it!

message 6: by Diane, Armchair Tour Guide (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane | 12851 comments I am really enjoying this book so far!

Mmars | 77 comments Decided I'd like to read this with the group. Requested from library. Should get to it later in the month.

message 8: by Sarah (new) - added it

Sarah | 662 comments I want to read this - along with The Cider House Rules - but I don't know if I can squeeze it in this month. I am going to read Lady Chatterly's Lover in October.

Mmars | 77 comments Cider House is on my TBR list and I have it on Kindle. I just have too many others lined up right now.

message 10: by Diane, Armchair Tour Guide (last edited Aug 09, 2014 09:13PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane | 12851 comments RitaSkeeter wrote: "Ps - highly recommend the film with Ed Norton/Naomi Watts if anyone hasn't seen it. The ending is changed a bit, but a beautiful beautiful film."

I love Ed Norton. I will definitely need to see it.

Mmars | 77 comments I'm about halfway through and I'm now having a hard time keeping it out of my head. It took a little bit, I had some problems at first with Maugham's sentence structure and phrasing. I read Brideshead Revisited not long ago and don't remember that being an issue.

Mmars | 77 comments Argh...had the wrong author. I done thonk I've read Maugham before. Though "Of Human Bondage" has gotten raves from friends.

Mmars | 77 comments Yup. That's hilarious. Thanks!

Jennifer | 109 comments I really enjoyed this story. I probably never would have read it if it wasn't for the this group read! It was emotional and heartbreaking on many levels. Loved the writing.

The Junkie's Fix is Reading (it's Em) Worse MC ever. I hate Kitty with all hatred in the world. LOL.

Nabse Bamato (wwwgoodreadscomnabse_bamato) | 16 comments Totally different from my usual read but am really enjoying this. I wonder, though, if anyone else is struggling with Kitty's sudden willingness to spend all her time helping the nuns after just one visit? For me it grates a little bit after her complete terror of cholera and her total lack of interest in anyone except herself.....

Nabse Bamato (wwwgoodreadscomnabse_bamato) | 16 comments ps love the OHB review - thanks for great early morning laugh!

The Junkie's Fix is Reading (it's Em) Nabse wrote: "Totally different from my usual read but am really enjoying this. I wonder, though, if anyone else is struggling with Kitty's sudden willingness to spend all her time helping the nuns after just on..."

In my own, she's not really into it. She's just bored? confuse? No matter what she do or think, i believe that she'll never really into it.

Mmars | 77 comments I've finished. Gave it 5 stars. I found it believable that she would get involved in the nunnery. Her life is so desolate and here is a place of women attempting to give hope to children without hope. These are also women so unlike her mother. I think she quickly sees something here that's been missing in her life.

Carol (spud272) | 16 comments From the very beginning with the silent turning of the doorknob, this book sucked me in. I am amazed at how much content Maugham packed into so few pages.

Missy J (missyj333) | 232 comments (view spoiler)

message 22: by Diane, Armchair Tour Guide (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane | 12851 comments Miss J wrote: " I remember that in the book, Kitty and Waddington go walking in Meifantu and spot a "Widow's Rock" (which kind of was a giveaway that Kitty would become a widow as well). Here in Hong Kong, we hav..."

Thanks for posting the link to the pictures. That is really cool! I wonder if Maugham based his rock on that one.

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