Posted by: Lisa Hill | November 8, 2008

The Painted Veil by W Somerset Maugham

painted-veilThe Painted Veil by W Somerset Maugham (8) – I read this after seeing the film, and kept seeing the glorious scenery as I read it. It’s a little different to the film, but very good to read. Silly flippant Kitty marries Walter Fane because she realises that she’s been choosy too long and is at risk of being on the shelf – which in the 1920s is a disaster for any young woman. In her world marriage is the only option and she needs to ‘marry up’ because her father has failed to be promoted to Chief Justice. On top of that her younger, plainer sister is to marry a baronet. So in a panic, she marries Walter who adores her and they set off for Shanghai. Things go awryvery quickly: Kitty has an affair with the local ladies’ man, and when Walter finds out he reacts with frigid hostility that they cannot overcome.
He demands that she accompany him to a distant province where he is to be chief medical officer in a village cholera is rampant. Clearly he wants her to die of it. This exploration of a doomed marriage and the consequences of decisions both deliberate and flippant is well worth reading, and I’m going
to try more of Maugham’s when I can.


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