Monday, May 4, 2009

The Painted Veil

Title: The Painted Veil
Author: W. Somerset Maugham
Genre: Fiction, Classic
Pages: 246
Date Finished: 28 February
My Rating: 5 Stars
Challenges: Decades, RYOB, New Author, 100+

Kitty, Kitty, Kitty! Kitty Fane is such a wonderful and wonderfully flawed character. The reader is aware of her faults, most of the other characters in the novel are aware of her faults, but Kitty? She is pretty blind to her faults. How happy it made this reader to see Kitty grow and mature and begin to recognize some of her short comings only to be so disappointed when she made some really stupid mistakes, again. Kitty, Kitty, Kitty. I can't help but shake my head.
I really loved W. Somerset Maugham's The Painted Veil and I found Kitty Fane to be one of the best drawn female characters I've read in awhile.
So, what were Kitty's faults that were so obvious to everyone but herself? She was shallow, spoiled, ambivalent, and pretty naive.
Beautiful but still single at 25 Kitty,out of desperation, accepts the marriage proposal of Walter Fane, a man who is the exact opposite of Kitty and whom she has nothing in common with. Walter is a shy and boring bacteriologist who loves Kitty beyond reason despite her ambivalence towards him.
Walter's job takes them to Hong Kong where Kitty has an affair with a married man. When Walter discovers the affair he gives Kitty an ultimatum to travel to inland China with him where he will work to curb a cholera outbreak or Walter will divorce her, causing a scandal.
Poor, naive Kitty believes she can convince her lover to leave his wife and marry her but of course her lover has no intention of leaving his wife and Kitty is forced to accompany her husband, a man she now fears, into the middle of a cholera outbreak.
We begin to see Kitty transform as she realizes there is more to the people and world around her. She begins to mature and appreciate others, even giving of herself to others in an unselfish manner. But will she be able to rescue her self or her marriage completely?
A wonderfully drawn and unembellished story. Highly recommend.

A note on the movie: I'll be up front and admit I'd never heard of this book until I saw it was made into a movie. The movie looked really interesting but I held off watching it until I'd read the book. The movie really fleshed out Walter a lot. The book was so much about Kitty but the movie really gave more dimension and maybe a little more insight in Walter. His work in China trying to fight the cholera epidemic was explored and dramatized and really made the movie more interesting, I think, than if it had not been added. Kitty and Walter's ultimate relationship was changed and made into more of a romantic love story and Kitty ended up stronger at the end of the movie than she was portrayed in the book. Inevitable changes were made from book to movie but I still really enjoyed the movie.


debilyn said...

Great review! I think I'll be adding this one to my To-Read list...(not to mention my To-Watch list!)

Beeswax said...

I loved the movie. I agree that Kitty is a fascinating character. I need to read it, too.

Shelley said...

I was surprised at how little it bothered me that the movie and book were different! I just liked them both.

dougandcheryl said...

I thought the movie was amazing- I went through quite a lot of tissues! I didn't even know it was a book so I'm going to have to read this now. Thanks.

Alyce said...

I haven't read anything by Somerset Maugham, but I'm sure I would have thought "depressing classic" if I hadn't read your review. It looks like a fascinating story so I've added it to my list.

Jeanette said...

Alyce-Some probably would consider it depressing, not the happiest of endings, but I just thought it seemed more real that way.

Debilyn, Beeswax & Cheryl-I hope you do read it and that you enjoy it. It is not a very long book at all and did not take me more than a day to read.

Shelley-I usually hate it when movies change books a lot but it just seemed to work with this one. I liked them both too.

Suey said...

Enough of this one sitting my nightstand! I need to read it already!

Anna said...

I read this right around the time the movie came out, but I still haven't seen the movie. Glad you enjoyed the book like I did.

Diary of an Eccentric

mee said...

I think this is probably the first movie that I watched that made me want to read the book (usually it's the other way around).

Sandra said...

I really enjoyed reading this book too. Nice to see someone review an oldie but goodie. Thanks.