The Painted Veil Audio CD – Import, 17 September 2006
Mass Market Paperback
Audio CD, Audiobook, CD, Unabridged
Audio Cassette, Audiobook, Unabridged, Import
''Kate Reading does a phenomenal portrayal of Kitty, progressively evolving her weaknesses into real character strengths by way of hardship, loss, and regret. She creates the aura of a full-cast production, switching effortlessly between characters...Elegant and thoughtful, Reading is a performance pro.'' --AudioFile
''Reading's narration conveys the novel's irony and cynicism. Her pitch is perfect, and her tone, rhythm, and intonation match the plot and the era. Reading conveys the feeling of a stuffy tea party set among smug guests. Kitty is at once self-absorbed and reflective, while Walter is both restrained and simmering.'' --Booklist
''Reading's narration uses only two voices one male and one female but her intelligent, expressive performance makes her characters of either gender most convincing. She fully captures the irony that defines Kitty.'' --Kliatt
''The Painted Veil, with its sadness, its moral tension, its irony and compassion, its building evocations of lust and terror and remorse, is a work of art.'' --Spectator
''The portrait of Kitty Fane is one of Maugham's finest fictional achievements. As with Bertha Craddock more than twenty years before, 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.'' --Selina Hastings, The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham
About the Author
Kate Reading is an Audie Award-winning narrator and has received numerous Earphones Awards from AudioFile magazine. She is also a theater actor in the Washington, DC, area and has been a member of the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company since 1987. Her work onstage has been recognized by the Helen Hayes Awards Society, among others. She and her husband live in Hyattsville, Maryland, with their two children.
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- Publisher : Blackstone Audiobooks; Unabridged edition (17 September 2006)
- Language : English
- ISBN-10 : 0786168927
- ISBN-13 : 978-0786168927
- Item Weight : 163 g
- Dimensions : 13.34 x 1.91 x 14.61 cm
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Published in 1925, our main character is the beautiful, but vacuous, Kitty. Her mother had been ambitious for her beautiful, eldest daughter; but Kitty fails to make the marriage she is expected to - too busy enjoying herself dancing and flirting. However, when her younger, and plainer, sister, finds a husband before her, she accepts the proposal of bacterologist, Walter Fane, who is returning to Hong Kong. Kitty wants to leave England before her sister is married and, although she doesn't love Walter, is aware that he adores her. The proposal is really central to the book. "Then, it's yes?" Walter asks pleadingly. "I suppose so..." she returns.
However, Hong Kong turns out to just be another disappointment. Walter is respected, but uncomfortable with the social events that are Kitty's lifeblood, and she finds her status is not as great as she, and certainly her mother, would have wished. Before long she takes a lover, Charlie Townsend, the Assistant Colonial Secretary. Handsome, charming, and assuring her that his marriage is one of convenience, Kitty - as so many women over the years have - falls for him, hook, line and sinker. When Walter discovers what has happened he gives her a choice. Either she accompanies him to a cholera ridden village or, if Charlie will divorce his wife and marry her....
Although Kitty starts out as a silly and deluded young woman; this is the story of how she grows up and is full of wonderful characters - from Waddington to the Mother Superior at the convent. Maugham writes excellent female characters and this is a story about finding yourself, which will have you cheering for Kitty, despite her faults.
The story takes place starting in Hong Kong, with the beautiful Kitty reluctantly agreeing to marry the unexciting Walter Fane, a bacteriologist, though in love with Charlie, a married ladies-man.
Kitty continues an adulterous affair with Charlie and when her husband finds out, he tells Kitty he will agree to divorce her on the condition that Charlie will promise to marry her - knowing full well, as it turns out, that Charlie will immediately back off, leaving Kitty high and dry and realising that she has been just his plaything. Walter then makes Kitty accompany him to a new post in a place riddled with hundreds of people dying from cholera. At first, she is appalled at the conditions, but gradually her character becomes caring, after she decides to work voluntarily in a convent run by French nuns.
In the film, Kitty ended up being madly in love with her husband, Walter Fane, and of course had the obligatory wild sex scene, a la Gone With the Wind, whereas in the book Kitty at the end had only developed a deep respect and admiration for Walter, her husband,who succumbs to cholera, but had not been passionately in love.
At the very end of the film, we saw Kitty with a young boy aged about 10 or so, whereas in the book, she had not even gone further than being pregnant. After Walter's death, she is reunited with her father, whose wife had just died and they make plans to go abroad and start life afresh, with Kitty caring for her father.
In both film and book, however, it is not 100% clear as to whether the child is Walter's or Charlie's, her former lover - but of course we - and Kitty - are left wanting to believe it is Walter's.
The book was extremely readable and I read it all in one go, not wanting to put it down.
This story is littered with traps that could easily turn it into more of a crowd pleaser (religious redemption, empowerment as a woman, love story - these could have all wrapped it up in a nice little package) but Maugham manages to steer clear and produce a provocative novel that left me pondering for many days.
Although not likeable, Kitty is a character anyone could identify with - she makes a mistake many of us have but for her its consequences are shattering and bring her crashing down to earth. So begins a chain of events that although tragic, lead Kitty to unexpected places. Her journey is explored with subtlety but not sentimentality and using language that is economical yet expressive.
I would also recommend reading the two poems that are referred to in the book as they provide good context:
An elegy on the death of a mad dog by Oliver Goldsmith
Lift not the painted veil by Percy Bysshe Shelley
I enjoyed this immensely and will definitely be reading more Maugham.