[Review] The Painted Veil by W.Somerset Maugham

Title: The Painted Veil
Author: W.Somerset Maugham
Page: 213 pages
Genre: Classics
Subject: China
First Published: 1925

Kitty Fane is the beautiful but shallow wife of Walter, a bacteriologist stationed in Hong Kong. Unsatisfied by her marriage, she starts an affair with charming, attractive and exciting Charles Townsend. But when Walter discovers her deception, he exacts a strange and terrible vengeance: Kitty must accompany him to his new posting in remote mainland China, where a cholera epidemic rages…

First published to a storm of protest, The Painted Veil is a classic story of a woman’s spiritual awakening.

- Synopsis from book cover

This is my first Maugham experience, a rather enjoyable one. Can a story be written in a style so direct and simple but holds a message so powerful that it captures its reader’s emotions at the same time? This book is one of those.

I sometimes shy away from classics because I feel that the language is a bit hard to read: I usually got lost in the middle of a long sentence and had to go back to the beginning and re-read. But the writing style of The Painted Veil makes the reading seamless so I can concentrate on the story and the emotions it evokes.

Raw emotions put you in the shoes of the characters. Not only did I relate and sympathize with Walter but with Kitty as well, although her attitude in the beginning was repugnant. Upon finding out Kitty’s affair, Walter gave her a Hobson’s choice to follow him to a remote mainland China (and risk death by cholera) or suffer the humiliation of divorce, which in the 1920s was still unacceptable. Here we can see the development of Kitty’s characteristics, how she grew out of her own wrongdoings.

Maugham wrote amazingly of a woman’s perspective and his understanding of women was as though the book was written by a woman itself. I thoroughly enjoy reading this book.

Most reviews I read saying that the movie is better than the book and even though I have not seen it yet, I think reading the book before hand makes you appreciate the movie more. I’m going to find the movie and see it for myself.


Divorce or cholera? What a charming husband! :P
I've never read any Maugham and have never felt the urge to, but this one does sound interesting.