The Painted Veil, by W. Somerset Maugham

But to all that moving experience there had been a shadow (a dark lining to the silver cloud), insistent and plain, which disconcerted her. In the sober gaiety of Sister St. Joseph, and much more in the beautiful courtesy of the Mother Superior, she had felt an aloofness …. There was a barrier between her and them. They spoke a different language not only of the tongue but of the heart. And when the door was closed upon her she felt that they had put her out of their minds so completely, going about their neglected work again without delay, that for them she might never have existed. She felt shut out not only from that poor little convent, but from some mysterious garden of the spirit after which with all her soul she hankered. She felt on a sudden alone as she had never felt alone before.”

The Painted Veil, by W. Somerset Maugham. Quite a page turner, filled with scandal in 1920s Hong Kong and then in backwoods China during a cholera epidemic. Kitty, the protagonist if not quite a heroine, makes a poor marriage, then an extramarital affair triggers her husband to volunteer to tend the dying in a cholera epidemic (and to drag her along). The fun is in watching the undertow of emotions slowly take shape, while Kitty becomes a 3-dimensional person. I think one more chapter in the book would have made the ending feel less rushed, and the conclusion more satisfyingly tantalizing.

Pour yourself a glass of iced green tea, pull up a chair on the shaded verandah, and start reading. And then ponder the questions I’m left with:

  • After all those lies, why did Kitty choose that one moment not to lie?
  • Is Charlie Townsend just a lout, or is he a villain of opportunity?
  • What happens to Kitty after the book ends?
Advertisements

Flickr Photos

Archives


%d bloggers like this: