Friday, May 2, 2008

Review: The Painted Veil, by W. Somerset Maugham

The Painted Veil is the story of Kitty Fane, an Englishwoman living in Hong Kong in the 1920s. Unhappily married to Walter, a bacteriologist, Kitty embarks on a love affair with Charles Townsend, a local government official. When Walter finds out about the affair, he coerces Kitty into accompanying him to Mei-tan-fu, a town that has been struck with a cholera epidemic.

What I loved about this book, and what I love about all Maugham's books, is the way he has with language. The novel is short, but each sentence he uses packs a powerful punch; from the first page I was absolutely enthralled. Kitty is an extremely shallow, materialistic character, but still she's likeable--you even understand why she does what she does. We only see Walter through Kitty's eyes, and we're given a distasteful view of him; I wish that Maugham had introduced the reader to what he was thinking. Despite its flaws, however, I was utterly captivated by The Painted Veil.


kristen said...

I just read The Painted Veil and really enjoyed your review -- I agree that it would have been nice to get into Walter's head. Have you seen the movie? I thought the movie was maybe a little more sympathetic toward Walter -- but that might just be Edward Norton's excellent acting. For once, I thoroughly enjoyed both the book AND the movie!

Katherine said...

I haven't seen the movie yet, but I have it in my Netflix queue... I've heard very good things about it in other places, too.

The Dissident Daughter said...

Hey, I haven't posed in a while but thought I'd say hi. I've been dying to read this book, just haven't gotten to it in my pile of books. I applied today to work at a bookstore writing about books! Such a total dream job for a bibliophiliac (ummm if that is a word...) like me! I hope everything works out but I'm not getting my hopes too high. I hope all is well with you! I thought you had disappeared but you just changed your web address!

Teddy Rose said...

Great review Catherine!

I loved the movie and the book is on my TBR.

Trish said...

Sounds great--I love books with powerful and beautiful language, even though sometimes they are few and far between. I'll have to check this one out!


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