Title: The Painted Veil
Author: W. Somerset Maugham
Published: 1925; Pages: 246
Genre: Literary Fiction/Classic
The Painted Veil in Short: A foreign country and a forbidden affair; Self-discovery and search for forgiveness and redemption. Old beginnings and new starts. Again, why do I bother… ;) Would you care if I just didn’t do a summary at all?
Why I Read this book: The Painted Veil is one of those that I kept hearing about and was vaguely aware of the movie with Naomi Watts and Edward Norton. In usual Trish fashion, I had no idea what the book was about when I started reading it–I bought it a few years ago secondhand and decided to read it before I had Elle because it was short. And so many bloggers list it as one of their favorites or one they would highly recommend.
Thoughts in General:
It had been a while since I’d read anything that could be considered a classic and so it took me a little while to get into the writing style. The writing reminded me of some of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s works and once I found my rhythm I quickly fell in love with Maugham’s style (see below). It always seemed as though Maugham was speaking of a greater truth–focusing on human nature as a whole; read this book made me yearn for more classical works where I can just drink in the language and be fully sated.
The Painted Veil is a very introspective work and in many ways I felt I was intruding upon the main character, Kitty, and her most personal thoughts. Throughout the novel she struggles with her love affair to a married man and her failing relationship with her own husband and it was almost painful to watch the paths she took that eventually forced her to take a look at her own life. I was often annoyed by her foolishness and was even more bothered by the actions of her lover Charlie and husband Walter, but I think there is something to be said about books that leave you feeling a little uncomfortable. Because what is comfortable about an affair, lies, deceit, not knowing oneself, uncertainty and insecurity.
Bottom Line: My mom asked me shortly after I finished this one if I would recommend it to her friend. I hesitated because the book isn’t terribly action-packed and in all honesty it’s pretty depressing. Because most of the novel follows Kitty and her internal struggles, it takes a bit of patience to work through the novel, but Maugham’s writing struck a very strong chord with me. The Painted Veil is haunting and beautiful and tragic. If you’re looking for a quieter novel with strong character development and a focus on writing, I would highly recommend this book. It really is literary fiction at its finest.
A Taste of the Writing:
“She was silent. Vaguely, as when you are studying a foreign language and read a page which at first you can make nothing of, till a word or a sentence gives you a clue; and on a sudden a suspicion, as it were, of the sense flashes across your troubled wits, vaguely she gained an inkling into the workings of Walter’s mind. It was like a dark and ominous landscape seen by a flash of lightning and in a moment hidden again by the night. She shuddered at what she saw” (82).
“It seemed to Kitty that they were all, the human race, like the drops of water in that river and they flowed on, each so close to the other and yet so far apart, a nameless flood, to the sea. When all things lasted so short a time and nothing mattered very much, it seemed pitiful that men, attaching an absurd importance to trivial objects, should make themselves and one another so unhappy” (150).
Have you read this one? What did you think?
Have you seen the movie? Is it worth watching?