Sunday, 7 September 2008
TITLE: THE PAINTED VEIL AUTHOR: W. Somerset Maugham DATE PUBLISHED: 1925 DATE READ: September 2008 NOTES: A delightful well constructed story of an unhappy marriage. Kitty Fane is shallow and vain while her husband is stiff and socially inept. They travel out to Hong Kong where Walter works as a bacteriologist. Here Kitty meets and is besotted with Charles Townsend. When Walter hears of her affair he gives her several alternatives and in the end she feels her only choice is to travel with him to the interior of China to work in a cholera-ravaged community. Kitty’s honesty about her own feelings and weaknesses endear her to the reader – but we are equally drawn to sad cuckolded Walter. At Mei-tan-fu Kitty begins to work in the Catholic convent and gradually comes to recognise good qualities in her husband while finding spiritual solace through hard work. Maugham introduces some great characters – Waddington the Customs Officer living with a Manchu woman and the wise Mother Superior. Some of Kitty’s shortcomings can be explained by her loveless family background. We do not get an insight into how Walter became the man he is. The Painted Veil is a good old-fashioned story beautifully told.