Monday, June 11, 2012

THE PAINTED VEIL by W. Somerset Maugham

This novel has one of the most intriguing opening scenes I've ever read.  A tryst is taking place in Hong Kong between Kitty and Charlie when they discover that someone is outside turning the latches on the shutters—her husband, no doubt.  The tone becomes much more somber, however, from this point forward.  Kitty's husband Walter, a bacteriologist, issues an unpleasant ultimatum which results in her accompanying him to a cholera-infested town in China.  Both Kitty and Walter find that they despise themselves and that perhaps this move is a suicide mission.  The story is really about Kitty's maturity process as she confronts her own frivolousness and tries to live up to the standard of kindness, industry, courage and integrity that Walter exemplifies.  A pivotal moment is when she finds herself pregnant and is faced with the task of telling her husband that she does not know who the father is.  As Kitty is in the process of transforming herself, she is faced with one last temptation.  Her handling of that situation proves that she's come a long way but is still human.  This book packs a powerful punch in a short number of pages.

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