The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham

1. First lines. 2. Publisher: Penguin Random House 3. Taoist monastery in China by Seth Kramer Licence CC BY via Wikimedia
I really liked this book.
A story of love and betrayal, with a strong dose of revenge.

Quotes from the book:

  • Women are often under the impression that men are much more madly in love with them than they really are.”
  • The verandah was in shadow; and lazily, her heart at ease with satisfied love, she lingered. Their house stood in the Happy Valley, on the side of the hill, for they could not afford to live on the more eligible but expensive Peak.”

Plot summary:

Walter and Kitty are unhappily married and living in Hong Kong. When Walter discovers that Kitty is having an affair, he blackmails her into going with him to a region of China where cholera is rampant. He works tirelessly with cholera patients, and Kitty begins working in the village to help the nuns. Here, she begins to reflect on her selfish and shallow existence.

Other editions:

Vintage; Vintage International; Penguin Random House; Vintage Classic; Heinemann

Excerpt online: Penguin Random House Canada


If Maugham were read at all by contemporary critics, The Painted Veil would surely figure as an early and remarkably forthright feminist novel. It has twice been made into a successful film, with Greta Garbo playing Kitty in 1934 and Naomi Watts in the role in 2006. Recent Maugham biographer Selina Hastings is particularly appreciative: ‘The portrait of Kitty Fane is one of Maugham’s finest fictional achievements … He displays an extraordinary empathy, an ability to create a woman as seen not from a man’s perspective but from that of the woman herself.’ Full review: The Cambridge Quarterly


  • The Painted Veil is a 1934 American drama directed by Richard Boleslawski and starring Greta Garbo. The film was produced by Hunt Stromberg for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
  • The Seventh Sin is a 1957 American drama directed by Ronald Neame and starring Eleanor Parker, Bill Travers and George Sanders.
  • The Painted Veil is a 2006 American drama directed by John Curran.  Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Toby Jones, Anthony Wong Chau Sang and Liev Schreiber appear in the leading roles.

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