Tuesday, 18 June 2013

The Painted Veil

So far, this summer seems to have been all about reading new authors for the first time and this  one was no different. This is an engrossing narrative which throws you straight into the midst of an extra-marital affair and an emotionally manipulative husband who sets out to punish his wife for her indiscretion. Published in 1925, it caused a storm on it's release with it's honest portrayal of adultery and a bored and unfulfilled wife. But from the perspective of a modern reader, it is not the adultery which has the ability to shock, but rather the fall out from the affair. 

"Some of us look for the Way in opium and some in God, some of us in whisky and some in love. It is all the same Way and it leads nowhither."
Kitty Fane's husband, Walter, is a biologist and when he is offered the opportunity to work in an area of China ravaged by cholera, he accepts. With no where else to go, Kitty soon realises that she has to go with him and to almost certain death. Needless to say I could not put this novel down once I had started, and I longed to know what the cold and remote Walter had planned next. The portrayal of Kitty is outstanding; it is so rare to find a male novelist who can paint the machinations of a woman's mind with any degree of accuracy, but he does. Death looms large throughout the novel, and Maugham presents a husband and wife who are both curiously resigned to their own demise.  Neither character are particularly likeable but it doesn't really matter for the original and absorbing story carries you through until the very last page. 

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